Looking at South Asia through art

Looking at South Asia through art


Eventful journey:Shahidul Alam, photographer, and human rights activist, delivering a talk at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore.? Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

Eventful journey:Shahidul Alam, photographer, and human rights activist, delivering a talk at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore.? Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
A South Asian evening, as it was called, saw artists from Bangladesh and Pakistan share their views on a wide range of issues, providing insights into the culture and politics of our neighbouring nations.
Salima Hashmi, a Pakistani painter, and Shahidul Alam, a celebrated photographer from Bangladesh, shared their journey and experiences with the audience at the packed auditorium of National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), recently.
As she spoke on ?Sanctuary and defiance: contemporary art from Pakistan?, Ms. Hashmi, also a writer, artist and anti-nuclear activist, took the audience through a journey of Lahore as it finds expression in her students and colleagues at Beacon House National University.
Interspersed with anecdotes, Ms. Hashmi presented a series of paintings. Explaining an iconic work of art titled ?Rana?s red carpet?, she said it presented the complex culture of Lahore. While it looks like a lovely traditional carpet from a distance, a closer look would reveal that it is made up of fragments of pictures taken at a slaughter house in Lahore.
?Though artists cannot change the world, they can, through their work, give flight to imagination and they can give you the direction,? said Ms. Hashmi, daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of Pakistan?s most renowned poets. She ended her presentation with the rendering of the late Faiz?s famous Punjabi song,Rabba Sachiya?sung by Tina Sani.
The famed photographer from Dhaka, Shahidul Alam, spoke on ?My journey as a witness?, reflecting the socio-political happenings in Bangladesh through his photographs, some of which were taken during Bangladesh floods and military insurgency.
He presented some striking pictures of former women Maoists.
He described how his widely acclaimed recent exhibition, ?Crossfire?, curated by Peruvian curator Jorge Villacorta, was closed down by the police leading to nationwide protests. He described how they had used multi-media as a subversive tool and reach beyond the country?s borders.

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

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