Laura El-Tantawy

Lives and works in the uk
www. lauraeltantawy .com

I’ll Die For You

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it, we can have no life.”
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

June 11, 2010, 35-year-old cotton farmer Sanjay Sarate stumbled home and fell to the ground. “I’ve taken pesticide … I’m going to die.”

Over the past 21 years, nearly 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in India. Many borrowed money through government lending schemes or private lenders to plant more efficient crops, but could not pay off their debts due to crop failure. Because of the fast transition India has undergone — from a rural to an industrial, urban economy with an open market, farmers have been confronted by immense social & economic problems. The majority of farmers ended their lives consuming pesticide — others set themselves on fire, hung themselves or threw themselves down a well.

On two separate travels, I met 70 families who experienced the suicide of a father, brother, husband or son.

My paternal grandfather — Hussein, is my inspiration for this series. A farmer in Egypt’s Nile Delta, his devotion to his land eventually annihilated him.

I have since documented farmers in Egypt, Nepal, England, Ireland, Peru and the Palestinian Territories, in an effort to show the collective vulnerability of living and dying as a farmer today.

With underlined themes around identity, belonging, survival, love & ultimately beginnings & endings, “I’ll Die For You” meditates on a way of life where the fate of man & land is intertwined as one. This is metaphorically implied in juxtaposing close ups of farmers’ skin against details from the landscape & by superimposing man & land in one frame.

As Sanjay Sarate lay on his bed, he hugged his six-year-old son, Sameer. “This is the end of my life,” he muttered. My work is an opportunity to attach a human face to an environmental & social reality some rebuff as abstract. It is also an ode to my grandfather & the many farmers I have been fortunate to meet & those who in death found a retreat.