Alqueva – changing scape

Miguel Proença • Alqueva - changing scape pictures the accelerated economic development pressures on people and on the environment, however carefully implemented. A political option for water reserves and industrial farming has led the Alqueva region into an incredible changing scape. Originally populated by local people practising traditional sustainable farming, conserving water and soils, with traditional olive, grape and oak species, the clearing of the reservoir basin and the filling of the dam has culled this sustainability; rising land and water costs have opened this environment to unsustainable pressure where large scale intensive high tech farming is becoming the norm. Culled landscape. · mp

Alqueva – changing scape  (translation from the Portuguese tittle Alqueva – paisagem que muda, povo que espera) is long term documental project .This work accompanied the last years before the conclusion of the Alqueva Dam structure and its effects on the local landscape and people. These include the submersion and relocation of a local village and the cutting down of millions of trees in the process of clearing the dam reservoir basin.

The photographs were taken between 2000 and 2004, and as this work progressed a relationship was gradually established with the Aldeia da Luz (“Village of Light”) population. The conclusion of the dam structure and the filling of its reservoir dictated the end of the original Aldeia da Luz, located below the projected waterline; the process of relocation of the c. 300 families, to a new and higher place a couple of miles away, resulted in much debate and a muffled outcry.

In varying exhibition formats,  Alqueva – changing scape has toured various location in the Alentejo, including the Casa Museu Jorge Vieira, Aljustrel, Almodôvar, and the Museu da Luz (“Light Museum”). The exhibitions where accompanied by other activities, from workshops to debates.

In 2007 with the support of Arte Contempo, a non-profit cultural organization, the photo book  titled Alqueva – paisagem que muda, povo que espera, (“Alqueva – changing scape”), with a wonderful and informative text (Portuguese) by António Oliveira Soares, was published.

In 2013 a new edition of the work, participated in Double Village, a group show, at the Museu da Luz and at select locations around the new village, with other photographs by António Carrapato and Benjamim Enes Pereira. The edition of work for this exhibit centered on the livelihoods of the inhabitants of the old village. C. 70 photographs constructed a line, a horizon, around the gallery space. To share these extraordinary moments is a way of giving back to that/this community the experiences shared, experiences and reflections that have helped me as a photographer and as a person.