Birth Pangs of a Nation

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The book and the film celebrate 40 years of Bangladesh?s turbulent history. Through images by the finest photojournalists in the world and personal interviews of photographers, freedom fighters, refugees and care givers, they map the birth of the nation and record the pain and sacrifice of the ordinary Bangladeshi, in what was one of the most massive human displacements in recent times. ?There are brief references to the complexities facing modern Bangladesh and its hope for the future.
at the Chhayanaut Auditorium, House 72, Road 15A, Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209
at 11 am on Monday, 12 December 2011


For those of you who missed David Burnett’s brilliant presentation last night, this is a chance to meet him in person. David Burnett, Raghu Rai and Abdul Hamid Raihan are the three photographers interviewed in the film.
Please link with us at www.drik.tv and watch live web streaming of the launch .?The live streaming will commence at 11 am (Bangladesh time), on the 12th of December 2011.

My journey as a witness on National Geographic website

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National Geographic?Events

Click here to find out more!Shahidul Alam ? My Journey as a Witness


My Journey as a Witness

Shahidul Alam

Beautifully illustrated,?My Journey as a Witness, is the first publication of over two decades of Shahidul Alam?s photography. This inspiring personal journey offers unique, insider perspectives on Bangladesh and its many messages of struggle and triumph. Borrowing from the concept of blogging, it is a chronological account ? in words and images ? of a photographer, teacher and activist living in one of the most impoverished countries in the world, and his attempts to engage with international media, while challenging the categorization of his people as icons of poverty. It also documents an entire artistic movement of photojournalists fighting the establishment in Bangladesh. Through personal stories, essays, poetry and photographs, Alam is testimony to the complexities of living and working in an environment where the personal is always political. This book also dwells on the organizational methods that have allowed the remarkable Drik photo agency to survive and excel in an international setting. In the backdrop are the personal and emotional tensions that inevitably arise where political goals are often achieved at the cost of individual needs.
About the book
This book showcases Shahidul Alam?s photographs, more than 100 color and black and white plates illustrating the journey of an artistic, social, and political witness from inside Bangladesh. This groundbreaking work retraces his personal vision spanning three decades and provides the best interpretative and investigative angles into a culture and reality that is otherwise often misunderstood in the West. Using photography and journalism as its parameters, it is the first comprehensive vision of Bangladesh. These images are not ?about? the region from a European perspective, nor are they an ethnographic account of an ex-colonial world. Instead, this volume is an ?on-the-ground? insight, exploring its topography with decidedly competent indigenous eyes. A personal ?way of seeing? ? the journey of a witness ? this book offers a reflective picturing of national and geographical truths, where the ?other? is no longer a stranger. Alam provides a purposeful alternative to the media driven images of poverty and destruction, literally defying received notions of the Subcontinent. After many years of struggle, he is a pioneering catalyst, inspiring development from within his ?majority world?; founding an artistic movement that cannot be silenced: the emergence of local photographers, achieving an intimacy with their subjects that truly understands and so rivals Western perceptions.
Alam?s image making carries its editorial eloquence far beyond its subject matter. For over 30 years, he has led the way in developing photography as a discipline in Bangladesh, producing an entirely new generation of acclaimed artists in the international arena. His writing style is personal, sometimes fast paced, often reflective, with magnificent imagery interwoven throughout the narrative.
Purchase?My Journey as a Witness here
About the author
Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, curator and activist. He obtained a PhD in chemistry at London University before switching to photography. He returned to his hometown Dhaka in 1984, where he photographed the democratic struggle to remove General Ershad. A former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the award winning Drik Agency, the Bangladesh Photographic Institute, and Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography; considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Director of the Chobi Mela International Photo Festival and chairman of Majority World Agency, Alam?s work has been exhibited in galleries such as?MOMA in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Royal Albert Hall in London and The Museum of Contemporary Arts in Tehran. A guest curator of the National Art Gallery in Malaysia and the Brussels Biennale, Alam?s numerous photographic awards include the Mother Jones and the Andrea Frank Awards. He has been a jury member in prestigious international contests, including World Press Photo, which he chaired. An Honourary Fellow of the Bangladesh Photographic Society and the Royal Photographic Society, Alam is a visiting professor of Sunderland University in the UK and principal of the South Asian Media Academy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A prominent social activist Shahidul Alam is also a promoter of new media and has lectured and published widely on photography, new media and education, in the?USA, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America.

Aid and influence

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Surge in Global Migration Expands Scale of an Aid Group?s Influence

Words By Jason DeParle
Photographs by Shahidul Alam
Published: New York Times August 30, 2011

DHAKA, Bangladesh ? As global migration has rapidly expanded, so has the influence of a little-known group whose eclectic work shapes migrants? lives across six continents.


Mohammad Shofiqul Islam is 35 years old. He sold his pharmacy in Khulna (and borrowed money from relatives ) to pay a recruiter (dalal) $5,000 for a job working in a Chinese restaurant in Libya. When he got there, he had an invalid visa and no job. He is one of about 34,000 Bangladehis whom IOM helped bring home from the war. was caught in the war for 15 days, and only reluctantly agreed to come home. He didn?t want to come back because he has no job at home and owes big debts. He paid about $80 to a Libyan driver to take him to the Tunisa border, where IOM had set up a tents for fleeing workers. ``My father, my wife, tney are all calling me, telling me you must come back to Bangladesh?I thought if we go to Tunisia, we live. If I stay in Libya, I die.?? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World for The New York Times




Shofiqul Islam, a worker whom the International Organization for Migration helped to leave Libya and return to his Bangladesh home after two years. "I'm very grateful," he said. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World for The New York Times

Here in Bangladesh it has staged folk dramas to warn against sex trafficking, put solar panels on a remote border post and rescued tens of thousands of Bangladeshi workers caught in the Libyan war, at times with daring sea ventures that defied rocket attacks.

Part research group, part handyman crew, the International Organization for Migration has become the who-you-gonna-call outfit for 132 member countries grappling with the surge in migration, both legal and unauthorized. Its rapid growth is a sign that migration has outgrown most countries? ability to manage on their own. ?I haven?t made it to a country yet where migration hasn?t been high on the list of priorities,? said William L. Swing, the director general.
Yet even as its duties grow, the group operates under tight constraints that reflect the special worries migration can arouse. The United States and other rich donors largely dictate its agenda and ensure that it does not erode their power to decide which migrants they admit and how many.
?It helps them bring in the people they want and keep out the people they don?t,? said Joseph Chamie, a researcher at the Center for Migration Studies in New York.


Prospective Bangladeshi workers on pre-departure orientation course preparing them for the challenges of living abroad. The course is run by the Bangladeshi government and supported by IOM. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World for The New York Times




Prospective Bangladeshi workers on pre-departure orientation course preparing them for the challenges of living abroad. The course is run by the Bangladeshi government and supported by IOM. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World for The New York Times


To understand the group?s rapid growth and varied duties, consider Bangladesh, where the $10 billion that migrants send home accounts for 13 percent of the economy ? making the export of people nearly as vital as the export of shirts. But migrants borrow heavily to finance their trips, and the labor recruiting industry is rife with scams.
Continue reading “Aid and influence”

On Forced Marriage, and Insourced Torture

Rahman?s case is one of the latest in a growing number of cases ? 29, at last count ? in which British intelligence services have been accused of colluding in the torture of British nationals and residents: Rangzieb Ahmed, Salahuddin Amin, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Rashid Rauf by the ISI, Binyam Mohamed in Morocco, Alam Ghafoor in Dubai, and Azhar Khan in Egypt. Rahman?s case provides the clearest indication so far, of torture outsourced

The Loving Face of British Imperialism

rahnuma ahmed

…the [Nigerian] nationalist leader Nnamdi Azikiwe urged Africans and other colonized peoples to prepare their own blueprint of rights themselves instead of relying on those who are too busy preparing their own.
— Bonny Ibhawoh, Imperialism and Human Rights, p. 155.
Forced marriage, says a British High Commission press release, is a crime (British High Commission, ?The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit Launches National Publicity Campaign on Forced Marriage,? Dhaka, 28 March 2006. The link, for unknown reasons, has gone dead). As opposed to arranged marriages, forced marriages — by dint of not being based on consent — are a form of domestic violence and human rights abuse.
To increase awareness, both in Britain and abroad, the British home ministry (HO), and the foreign ministry (FCO), jointly formed a Forced Marriage Unit in January 2005. The unit was tasked with launching a publicity campaign: radio and press adverts, TV fillers and poster campaigns, and providing information. To those at risk, those affected, and those who are survivors.
The British government, said the state minister for home, Baroness Scotland QC, is determined to protect young people’s “right to choose” their spouses. A determination backed by the state minister for foreign office Lord Triesman’s assurance that “help is available” for its victims. Continue reading “On Forced Marriage, and Insourced Torture”