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The Ardent Fight:
An Artist's Trip to the Tabasará River

The Arden Fight is a multi-media audio and visual project on the Tabasará River. The Tabasará River runs through the indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé territory of central Panama. For a decade, the imminent construction of the Barro Blanco dam threatened to flood their ancestral lands and destroy their way of life.

I learned about the Tabasará River during project-based research in a course on Global Protest and Civil Unrest at Stanford University in 2014. Through my research, I analyzed the effectiveness of legal action using environmental impact assessments, international human rights invocation, and civil protest to delay the dam construction.


In December 2014, I went to Panama to speak to the environmental law group fighting the dam and visit the river itself. I interviewed local leaders and painted watercolors of the Tabasará to bring back to the U.S.. Both the audio and visuals from my trip were used to create The Ardent Fight, with support from the Stanford Organizing Committee for the Arts. The paintings exhibited on campus and online through the Stanford Arts Review

Art evokes emotion. Emotion connects us. Through this piece, I wanted to create an experience for my audiences to engage with the social and environmental impacts of the dam's construction. I hoped they would see their own precious wild places reflected in the paintings, and recognize the beauty that would be lost without swift action. 

The places captured in these paintings are now lost forever: the Barro Blanco dam began operation in 2017, flooding Ngöbe-Buglé lands and displacing its people. 


Original Paintings by Maria Doerr © 2015

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