An Elegy for the Death of Hamun

Hashem Shakeri


Photographer and filmmaker Hashem Shakeri discovered photography as an adolescent and developed his visual language during a decade of trial and error. In 2010, he claimed photography as a profession, spending extended periods of time in Iran where he has captured his signature body of work on exile and abandonment. An Elegy for the Death of Hamun is one installment of this work, which studies the harsh effects of climate change in Sistan and Baluchestan, a province on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Once a forest with a history of over 5000 years, Shakeri exposes this province as an infertile desert forcing its habitants to migrate for survival. In an eerily calm tone achieved through the pastel hues of his landscapes, Shakeri presents us with a reportage of real life that appears other-wordly and from another time than our own.


As the largest province of the country, Sistan and Baluchestan is located southeast of Iran. Once a forest with a history of over 5000 years, it was a plentiful source of crops in the country. Now, the province is facing rapid climate change which has turned this vast region into an infertile desert. Drought, unemployment and hopelessness for the future of this land have made over one-fourth of the population migrate in recent years.

Lake Hamun is connected to the Helmand River which stems from Afghanistan, whose government has built four extensive dams in upstream Helmand preventing the water from reaching Iran. Consequently, any fluctuation in the water level now causes problems for the whole system.

Today there is nothing left of the Lake except for cracked, barren Earth with dried reeds that catch fire easily under hot sunlight. The reeds were once a main source for feeding livestock but they were also used to make traditional boats called Totens for sailing to central cities in the province. People made their living by fishing, farming and animal husbandry in this region and their lives were totally dependent on Lake Hamun. With Hamun dying, the great diversity in wildlife and vegetation has virtually vanished.

Currently, about 1600 villages in the province lack healthy drinking water and are periodically visited by water tankers. Sistan is now regarded as the land of forgotten and exhausted people. It is the land of people whose voices have not been heard. They have become silent with little hope, and they are trying hopelessly in the dried and silent wilderness to revive their villages and cities.

Foreword and curation by Elke Numeyer-Windshuttle Intro by Hashem Shakeri.