Crossing the dust sea when I arrived at Htankhi oil field of Myanmar, it was 10 o’clock on my watch and 35 degree Celsius on the thermometer. I looked around and found hundreds of triangular tents. I felt a very alien silence of hundreds of oil machines’ monotonous humming.
I walked to their houses and eventually in their life. I spent night after night in restaurants for a drink with new friends. Restaurant means bamboo made food shops, where a very strong smell of alcohol and petroleum was floating in the air and very hi-pitch music from the amplifier. There seemed hopes and dreams but life was taking them to an uncertain destination.
There are many oil fields to the left and right all along the Irrawaddy River. Htankhi, Dahatpinand many other oil fields here are very unique in the globe. No giant petroleum companies but thousands of people are drilling crude oil with manual labor. People from different part of the country gather here to try their luck. People from different races form a very intimate and complex community here along with local villagers. Sometimes they are struggling to adopt the obvious cultural shift but they are exchanging instead of fighting. Their work continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not certain that everyone will get petroleum from every well. Someone is getting 5 barrels of petroleum everyday and someone is only digging frustration.
These people used to grow crop in their land. Their intense relationship with the nature is being shifted for the petro money. They have to destroy their land to drill petroleum. I’ve spent 4 weeks with them, tried to intimately observe how their life and fortune is surrounded by oil.
Photographs & Text: Debasish Shom | Website: www.debasishshom.com | Curated by Munem Wasif