The Plastic Road

The Pamirs are a conflicting place to write about. In the midst of writing Bo dastoni khud – With our hands” A book of food, and life, in the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs, we are constantly challenged with juxtapositions, cyclical arguments of market capitalism vs. traditional barter/trade and what Pamiri autonomy looks like.

Myrto Papadopoulos’s photo/film project “The New Plastic Road” portrays the Pamirs as a melancholic place. Her photos tell a story of isolation, despair and vulnerability. This is, certainly, one side of the Pamiri story. A people whose dependency on external input was only strengthened during the Soviet era, now depends almost solely on remittances from Russia, while still trying to rebuild after a violent civil war. Perhaps as scarce as the landscape, is imagination and motivation to pursue a common vision for the future.

But there is another story; one which I think is more representative of the rich nature and culture of the region. The semi-arid steppe ecosystem is a place of scarcity, no doubt, but it is also the very scarcity of the place, which has shaped the rich culture and diversity, with hundreds of apricot and apple varieties, endemic pears, a beautiful mixture of grains, and of course mulberries, a Pamiri staple. Below are a few images which I think tell a story of richness and community, rather than scarcity and isolation. Perhaps through building on hope and pride in Pamiri Culture, we imagine a road other that a Plastic one.

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