In 2010, in the midst of creating both Photosynthesis and Volcano Cycle for Eden Turned on Its Side, I learned about the valiant efforts of the Iraqi Environmental NGO, Nature Iraq, to restore the vast drained Mesopotamian marshes of southern Iraq. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers cross on the eastern edge of the marshes, so these wetlands are thought to be in extreme proximity to the original historic site of the Garden of Eden.
The marshes are home to the Marsh Arabs, who lived an unchanged way of life here for over seven thousand years, until the early 1990s. Then, when Saddam Hussein drained and burned the wetlands to punish Shi’ite rebels hiding there, they were murdered or driven out. With Hussein’s demise in 2003, people started returning, with simple hand tools, to break through the earthen canal and let the waters back into the desiccated land. Azzam Alwash, an engineer from Laguna Beach, California, immediately returned to the nature preserve of his childhood. He created Nature Iraq with the mandate to help restore and preserve Iraq’s endangered waters, flora, and fauna.
Despite progress, the situation is far from perfect—with people now building on land instead of on waterways, the Euphrates has become dangerously contaminated with human sewage. I initiated the Eden in Iraq project in 2011 to create a demonstration wastewater garden that will restore health and grow beauty in the devastated marshes of southern Iraq.
These images are made to resonate, both conceptually and in a material sense, with the other two parts of Eden Turned on Side—Photosynthesis and Volcano Cycle—and to remain companions to the Wastewater Garden Project. Our garden design is based on Mesopotamian wedding-blanket patterns. The images presented here are configured as weavings in the sense that different themes are being woven together: nature, culture, environmental and cultural history, and more. Here linen, tapestry, and metal are employed to give a sense of the fabric of life in the marshes.