Akeel Khreef’s year-long exploration of the drying out of Iraq’s marshes has culminated in the burial of a fish in the world’s largest cemetery.
The Wadi Al Salam cemetery in the Iraqi city of Najaf attracts millions of pilgrims annually. Khreef follows traditional rituals as he walks the dead fish through the cemetery to its burial spot, where his digs the shallow grave with his own hands.
Khreef’s delicate and playful performance highlights the fragility of the marshes, and the co-dependency of humans, flora and fauna in its ecosystem.
The marshes hold an important cultural significance in Iraq. This was Mesopotamian civilisations developed their agriculture and where writing was invented around 3500 BC.
Yet in recent decades, Saddam Hussein’s regime redirected the river and dried out the marshes, forcing out its indigenous population. In 2016, the marshes were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, yet they continue to be threatened by rising temperatures.
The project was commissioned by the Ruya Foundation for the World Weather Network, which sees a collective of 28 arts organisations build a global constellation of ‘weather stations’ in response to climate change.
Follow Akeel Khreef’s journey through Iraq’s southern marshes for the World Weather Network here.