06 Jun–31 Jul 2018

The business of Wayfaring: On roads in Highland Asia

Photo exhibition at the Masur Gallery, Lockhart, Texas.

Martin Saxer


The Business of Wayfaring is my contribution to a collective exhibition by participants of the workshop "Writing with Light" (4-8 June 2018). The show takes place at the Spellerberg Project's Masur Gallery.

On the way to Osh. Martin Saxer, 2013.

The Business of Wayfaring – Synopsis

Over the past decade, a construction frenzy has swept across the highlands of Asia. From the Pamirs to the Himalayas, a plethora of new roads have been built or are currently under construction, holding the promise of development and progress. Roads are strange creatures. They are intensely hated by tourists treading former trekking routes in the dust of vehicles passing by; longed for by locals feeling cut off and left behind; prime political capital for those who initiate them; and – when lacking maintenance – symbols for all that is wrong with politics and development. As projects to be implemented, as lines of neglected gravel or tarmac, and as fragile routes of trade and exchange endangered by floods and avalanches, mountain roads insert themselves into the lives and dreams of those who use them. Far from being smooth and stable routes of trade and exchange, they foster what I call the business of wayfaring.

The photographs presented were taken between 2013 and 2017 during my research on remoteness and connectivity in Highland Asia (see www.highlandasia.net). The pairs of images, taken within minutes, are the starting point of five little stories that accompany them: Snow in late August on a trip from Murghab to Osh, which forged a companionship amongst the share-jeep passengers hoping to arrive before nightfall; a brief stop in a construction camp on the Nara Pass in Humla, Western Nepal; Chinese road workers in Dulong, Yunnan, sharing a cigarette with a Chinese tourist; the couple of hours I spent in an old Soviet car at the crossroads in Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan, seeking shelter from the wind, drinking vodka, and watching the world passing by; and Afghan road workers in Badakhshan drilling a road into the cliff, observed across the river together with a motley crowd of Mongol Rally participants. Each pair offers a short glimpse into life along highland roads.

Highland Asia Research Group
LMU, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oettingenstr. 67
80538 Munich, Germany
martin.saxer@lmu.de | +49 89 2180 9639

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