Photographer Btihal Remli, Moroccan-German artist in residence for the SMART program, documented during three months her view on mountain farming in the Swiss Alps.
The first thing one noticed entering the exhibition "Heroes of the Mountain" was not photos, but the smell of garlic. Later, when the exhibition was in full swing, the source of odor was passed on trays through the crowd: garlic flavored cheese and sausages from the alpages of Nava, Emaney and la Fouly. The alpages are situated between 1800 and 2800 meters above sea level in different side valleys of the Canton Valais, in the southwestern part of Switzerland. Valais is one of the most mountainous regions in Switzerland where mountain farming was and still is an important part of rural life. During the summer months the alpages host cows, sheep, pigs and goats. The farmers sell their meat and dairy products in markets down in the central Rhone valley. But here as elsewhere, this particular type of small-scale agriculture faces challenges. Climate change, globalization and commercial pressure from big food retailers make it difficult for mountain farmers. Their numbers are declining. At the same time, advertisement uses a stereotyped image of mountain farmers to sell goods often produced in environments quite the opposite of the evoked mountain idyll.
On the 2nd of November 2016, Btihal Remli – a Moroccan photographer who grew up in Germany – presented in 18 photographs her view about these vanishing forms of traditional food production. Her work is based on a three months residency in the mentioned alpages, where she observed the farmers' daily routine. A few weeks later, Btihal showed her work also at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, the COP 22, in Marrakech.
Take a virtual visit through the exhibition together with Btihal and learn why mountain farmers are heroes!
At the exhibition students from art schools mingled with mountain farmers, and local politicians with inhabitants from the valley. The displayed photos confronted the audience with an artistic vision of contemporary mountain farming without clichés and Alpen kitsch. And that mountain art can be indeed sustainable showed the short supply chain the slaughtered pig in one of the photos took: it ended up in the exhibition as a sausage. If we could only trace all our food that easily!
Click here for more information on the exhibition (available only in French).