In this new exhibition in Alliance Française de Kotte, two women invite us to share their vision of water and jars in Sudan and Sri Lanka.
Through their images, we realize the importance of this natural resource, of its use and its distribution. Be it scarce in Sudan or abundant in Sri Lanka, water is essential to life and its management is linked to a vital and generous gesture based on the idea of sharing.
In Sri Lanka:
In everyday life we see women as water bearers.
Women mould clay carefully into pots.
They walk miles fetching water each day.
But what interests me as a photographer is how they share life.
In a society, women are told not to speak out or not to laugh aloud
they share a smile or a tear, near a well or on a river bank and
sometimes around an urban public tap.
They share life bathing, washing, and carrying water.
Water is life.
Women share life.
It’s time to celebrate “Women sharing life…”
In Sudan, a sabeel (Arabic word which means « way » and also « public fountain ») is an installation created and maintained by a private person to put free drinking water for the benefit of passers-by and travelers. It is a fountain, but water is not flowing.
The Muslim people who take the initiative to build a sabeel, do it, sometimes, for religious purpose, seeing in it a way, recommended by prophet Muhammad, to facilitate the access to heaven for themselves or for a person dear to them, but their motivation is also solidarity and the will to partake, in a very hot and dry climate, the resource of water, which is scarce and vital.
The central element of a sabeel is the terracotta jar, regularly refilled with water, where everybody can draw water to quench their thirst. The forms and the techniques of making the jars vary according to the regions.
A sabeel consist of one, two, three or a full set of jars, of the same or different form, kept on the ground or on stands made of wood, metal or brickwork. Lots of efforts are made to keep away the heat from the jars and their precious content. The jars are placed in well ventilated places, under the shade of a tree, sometimes fixed between the branches or protected from the sun by small covers. They can also be wrapped in pieces of cloth.
When a family decides to build a sabeel, the choice of the jars belongs to women.
The jars live, breathe, perspire, allow grass and plants to germinate at their feet. In time, the jars acquire a patina and are covered with silt and mosses.
The other elements of a sabeel are the cups, often tins, to draw water. Sometime, lids prevent sand, dust and insects to enter into the jars.
In Sudan, the water jars, which were in use more for than 5000 years, are part of the landscape in towns and villages, but the rich travelers, who go aboard air-conditioned 4 wheel drive vehicles, do not pay attention to them.
As I admired the efforts made by thousands of people to give water to poorer and to keep the water cool, I was charmed by the simple beauty of the sabeels and as I fear that they will disappear, in the cities, in a few decades, I felt like taking pictures of the ones I saw while I was travelling. Later, I thought that I could make use of my pictures to make the people of other countries aware of the Sudanese sabeels and through them, show how drinking water in the world is rare.
Christine Robichon, Ambassador of France in Sri Lanka