The Ardent Fight

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. Over the last decade the Barro Blanco dam has threatened to flood their ancestral lands and destroy their way of life.


I first learned about the Tabasará River in a course on Global Protest and Civil Unrest. In a research-based paper I analyzed how environmental reports and technical economic data were used to delay the dam construction. In December 2014, I went to Panama to speak an environmental lawyer working on the case and visit the community itself.

I interviewed local leaders and painted watercolors of the Tabasará to bring back to Stanford. Both the audio and the visuals from the trip were used to create The Ardent Fight. The paintings exhibited on campus and digital copies are hosted by the Stanford Arts Review

Visual art and audio are experiential mediums. By using art to convey the engineering challenges presented by the dam, I hoped to invite a broad audience to engage with the social impacts of the development and raise awareness. I chose to communicate the technical implications of the dam through art rather than a paper or even a photo journal, because I hoped to speak to the essence of the Tabasará and draw my audience to see it through an emotional lens. Art evokes emotion. Emotion connects us. By connecting my audience to this river and, hopefully, to the people who call it home, I aimed to promote understanding and encourage awareness-informed action to support the work of the Ngöbe-Buglé people. 

This project was made possible by a grant through Stanford Organizing Committee for the Arts.

Original Image by Maria Doerr © 2015

Original Images by Maria Doerr © 2018