Forest of Tides: The Sundarbans

Written by Louis Werner Photographed by Shahidul Alam / DRIK

Split not quite in half by the border between India to the west and Bangladesh to the east, crowning the Bay of Bengal, the world?s most complex river delta works like South Asia?s showerhead?one the size of Lebanon or Connecticut. Fed by Himalayan snowmelt and monsoon runoff, carrying a billion tons a year of Asian landmass suspended as sediment, the three great flows of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna rivers all end in one vast estuarial tangle, one of Earth?s great water filters, the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans. Continue reading “Forest of Tides: The Sundarbans”


Pathshala Campus
Pathshala Campus

A report on Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, published by the online news portal, has come to our attention (?Shahidul Alam?s Pathshala operates without affiliation,?, 6 August 2016). Unsubstantiated allegations, backbiting and innuendo and the absence of cross checking characterise the ?report.? It is a shoddy piece of journalism. Continue reading “PATHSHALA?S RESPONSE TO BDNEWS24.COM?S REPORT”

Modi visits Bangladesh, but Teesta is not even in the agenda

by Taj Hashmi

Last time I met my old friend Gowher Rizvi at his office in December 2011, he was very upbeat and optimistic about the ?impending? Teesta water sharing agreement with India. He seemed to have reposed absolute trust in what Manmohan Singh ? a fellow Oxford alumnus ? had promised him in this regard. Although I was still a bit skeptic about the deal, I brushed aside my skepticism momentarily, thinking the Oxford Old Boy camaraderie might have worked to the advantage of Bangladesh.

PMs Hasina, Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee flagging off a bus service between Bangladesh and India, in Dhaka Saturday. (Source: PTI) - See more at:
PMs Hasina, Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee flagging off a bus service between Bangladesh and India, in Dhaka Saturday. (Source: PTI) – See more at:
Continue reading “Modi visits Bangladesh, but Teesta is not even in the agenda”

Situation Report: Dhaka, April 26, 2015: Hazard Type: Earthquake

Location: Nepal, India and Bangladesh

Reporting Period: 26 April?15

Location: Nepal, India and Bangladesh
Detail Information:
An earthquake rattled the Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rongpur, Kushtia and different parts of the country on April, 25. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter was 81 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal at a depth of 9.3 moles. The Meteorological Department stated that the epicenter of the earthquake was 745 km north-west of Bangladesh. Tremors were felt also across the region, in India, Tibet, China, Tibet and Pakistan (Prothom Alo;; the Daily Star, April, 25; and CNN, April, 26).
Another Earthquake followed the earlier one as an aftershock at 13.08 on 26th April to hit Nepal with a magnitude of 6.7 along with Bangladesh and India (Prothom Alo;; the Daily Star, April, 26; and CNN, April, 26).
Damage Information:
Bangladesh: In Bangladesh, total 5 people were killed and up to 100 people were injured while evacuating. One female was killed by collapse of wall made of mud along with other two women were killed in Pabna and Dhaka. One worker was killed along with 50 injuries in Savar. Another death toll occurred in Sunamganj. 50 readymade garment workers were injured at Ishwardi (Situation Report, DDM, April 25; Prothom, April, 26). 23 buildings were damaged in all over Bangladesh (Situation Report, DDM, and April, 25).

Earthquake, 25 April: Damage and loss in Bangladesh
Death Injury Structural Damage
4 persons died (1 inSavar, Dhaka; 1 in Bogra; 1 in Sunamganj; &1 in Pabna) ? 10-12 workers injured atMission Group Garment
Factory in Savar
? 2-3 workers injured at Kardena garment in Comilla
? Five story building develops?cracks in Bangla Bazar, Dhaka? Six story building tilted in Nawabpur, Dhaka
? Five story building tilted in Mirpur, Dhaka
? Seven story building tilted in Keraniganj, Dhaka.
? A hotel tilted in Baridhara , Dhaka
? 2 commercial buildings tilted in Narayanganj
? 1 garment factory tilted in Gazipur
? 1 school damaged in Gopalganj
? 10 story commercial building with cracks in Feni
? A building with?cracks in Nabiganj, Sylhet
? A school tilted in Gangachara upazila, Rangpur
? 2 schools damaged in Gaibandha
? 2 buildings damaged in Rajshahi
? 4 buildings tilted in Naogaon
? Crack found at school in Sonatola, Bogra
Source: Disaster situation report, DDM, April, 25, 2015

Nepal: The 7.8 magnitude quake along with a strong aftershock of magnitude 6.6 followed by nearly three dozen other aftershocks struck an area of central Nepal between the capital, Kathmandu, and the city of Pokhara on Saturday morning (April 25, 2015). The Home Ministry identifies that more than 2263 people were killed and 4,718 people were injured (till 17.00, CNN, April 26) which mainly include only information of cities. The earthquake flattened homes, buildings and temples, causing widespread damage along with wrecking many historic buildings include the Dharahara tower, the landmark nine- story structure. Kathmandu airport was shut till 4 pm, Indigo, SpiceJet flights forced back after fresh tremors jolt Nepal (India today April, 26) Mobile phones, Electricity and other communications were disrupted. Around 6.6 million people are affected in Nepal according to the UN Office in Kathmundu (India today April, 26). The Government of Nepal declared the National Emergency. (, April, 26)
Earthquake 1
Building tilted due to earthquake in Nepal
Earthquake 2? A man trapped under a building in Nepal
Government of Bangladesh provided 10 tons of reliefs including food (biscuit, water, and dry foods), medical (medicine) and humanitarian help (tent, blanket) along with a team of 34 members consisted of
6 groups of physicians and Bangladesh Air force crew (, April, 26; Prothom Alo, April, 26).
The U.S. government is providing $1 million in immediate assistance to Nepal. Aid agencies expressed concern for the welfare of survivors in the coming days, as overnight temperatures were expected to drop and people were forced to make do without electricity, running water and shelter. (US Geological Survey, CNN, April, 26; BBC News, April 26 and Prothom Alo, April 25).

The UK has deployed a team of humanitarian experts to Nepal to provide urgent support. A number of

British charities are assembling disaster teams to join the rescue effort.
Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children, the British Red Cross and Plan International UK are assessing the humanitarian need in the disaster struck area.
India: Officials in India confirmed at least 52 deaths in three states from the Earthquake. (, April, 26)
Tibet: At least 17 people were killed and 53 injured along with roads buckled and buildings collapse in
Tibet. (, April, 26
Avalanches in Himalayan: Twenty two (22) people have killed along with 237 missing on Mount Everest by avalanches caused by the Earthquake, the mountain’s worst-ever disaster (, April, 26)
Reporting from: NIRAPAD Secretariat
4/16 (1st Floor), Humayun Road, Block-B
Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207
Download pdf

ARThinkSouthAsia Cultural Management Programme 2013-14

ARThinkSouthAsia invites applications for ARThinkSouthAsia Cultural Management Programme 2013-14
The ARThinkSouthAsia Fellowship is designed to help develop skills, knowledge, networks and experience of potential leaders in the cultural sector of South Asia, which include museums, the visual and performing arts and digital media. We believe that by supporting exceptional individuals to make a step-change in their skills and career potential, we can bring substantial benefit to the cultural field as a whole.
Fifteen fellows will be selected from across South Asia for the Fellowship, which includes a two week residential course in April 2013 led by experienced international and Indian tutors, a secondment/internship in Germany/UK over the fellowship year 2013-14, and a concluding seminar in March the following year.
Requirements for the application
1. Minimum graduate degree from a recognized university or equivalent professional qualifications and experience of at least 3 years, either in employment or freelance
2. Detailed CV
3. Submission of a proposed/ongoing project
4. Two letters of recommendation from relevant educational/professional sources
5. Completed application form
Please note that the fellowship is aimed towards south Asian residents only.
Deadline: 15th November, 2012
Send by e-mail or registered post to:
Fellowship Applications, ARThinkSouthAsia
c/o S-17, Khirkhee Extension
New Delhi – 110017
T: +919871467227
Application form and other details?

Bangladesh Profile

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By Shahidul Alam
Bangladesh will be 40 years old next year. Back in 1971, its civil war and declaration of independence gained global notice thanks to the Concert for Bangladesh, which drew over 40,000 to Madison Square Garden in New York. Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar, George Harrison and other stars of the music world performed at the first major concert held for a social cause, concentrating attention on what was then East Pakistan, devastated first by the cyclone in Bhola and then by the atrocities committed by the Pakistani?Army.
Bangladesh continues to have an eventful history. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father, was assassinated in 1975. The?CIA?is alleged to have played a role. Ziaur (?Zia?) Rahman, the general who followed Mujib, was also assassinated, as were many others during those tumultuous?years.
Zia moved away from the socialism and secularism on which the original Bangladeshi constitution had been built, and moved closer to the?US?and the Middle East. His successor, General Ershad, strengthened the Middle East ties by declaring Bangladesh an Islamic state. Secular Bangladesh had been?buried.
Bangladeshis? love for democracy is not to be underestimated, however. Resistance grew in the streets and, with the military refusing to bail him out, Ershad eventually stepped down. For once a deposed leader went to a jail cell rather than a?grave.
Map of Bangladesh
Since then the democracy available has still been distinctly less than perfect. The two main parties ? the Awami League, ruled by Mujib?s daughter Sheikh Hasina, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), ruled by Zia?s widow Khaleda Zia ? have effectively taken it in turns to hold power, each sounding much more plausible in opposition than in government. Attempts to fix the elections by the most recent BNP government in 2007 infuriated the opposition, leading to violence in the?streets.
The?US?and the European Union decided a pliant government backed by the military was much easier to handle than some messy democracy, and an ex-World Bank employee was brought in to head the military-backed ?caretaker government?. This puppet government started by arbitrarily extending its prescribed 90-day tenure to two years. It then tried to break the existing parties, by jailing the top leaders and setting up its own party, but failed miserably. Eventually the two years ran out and the people were in no mood to accept another extension. Deals were hurriedly made and the unplanned exit took place without?violence.
On election day in December 2008, a young man showed off the purple stain on his thumb. He had voted and was proud of it. After two years of effective military rule, Bangladeshis had voted in huge numbers. The landslide victory for the Awami League hadn?t been predicted. Occasional turnouts of over 100 per cent were somewhat embarrassing, but by and large it was a fair election. The overwhelming majority was something the new government, which had promised change, could use finally to set things?right.
But soon it was business as usual. Feuds over the spoils led to intra-party fights. Accusations of sexual abuse by the student wing of the Awami League led to fingerwagging at her own party by Sheikh Hasina, but people were not convinced. The government seemed more interested in territorial disputes rather than the serious rise in prices, the frequent power cuts and the infrastructure?failure.
The problems do not get any smaller. Bangladesh is one of the countries likely to be worst affected by global warming. Financial mismanagement in the?US?is beginning to affect Bangladeshi migrant workers, the biggest revenue earners in the country. For the 135 million Bangladeshis who live on less than two dollars a day, the promised change is long?overdue.
Bangladesh Fact File

Leader Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.
Economy: GNI per capita $520 (Pakistan $980, UK $45,390). Two-thirds of Bangladeshis are farmers, but more than three-quarters of Bangladesh?s export earnings derive from the garment industry, which employs over 3 million people (mainly women). Remittances from workers in other countries are also vital to the economy.
Monetary unit: Taka
Main exports Garments, seafood, jute and jute goods, leather.
People 160 million. Annual population growth rate 1.6%. People per square kilometre 1,111 (UK 253).
Health Infant mortality 43 per 1,000 live births (Pakistan 72, UK 5). Lifetime risk of maternal death 1 in 51 (UK 1 in 8,200).
Environment Given the consumption habits of the average Bangladeshi and the fact that virtually everything is recycled, the country has always had a low carbon footprint. However, the complete environmental disregard of industrialists has led to very high levels of pollution. Arsenic in groundwater, originally brought about by UN-sponsored tubewells, threatens to kill millions.
Culture Bangla culture has a rich history stretching back over many centuries ? the earliest Bangla literary text dates from the eighth century. This heritage is shared with the Indian state of West Bengal. The Chittagong Hill Tracts are home to distinct ethnic groups collectively known as Jumma.
Religion Muslim 83%, Hindu 16%, tiny Buddhist and Christian minorities.
Language Bangla 98%.
Sources UNICEF, UNDP, Guia del Mundo, CIA.
Bangladesh ratings in detail (Previously reviewed 2000)
Income distribution: The gap between rich and poor has increased. The garment industry brought in $12.3 billion in 2009, but the minimum wage for garment workers ($25 a month) is among the lowest in the world.
Life expectancy: 66 years (Pakistan 67, UK 79). Improving, but families can be destroyed by a major illness due to the high costs of medical care.
Literacy: 54%. Primary education has improved, especially for girls ? there are now more girls than boys in school ? but poverty forces many to drop out of the education system.
Position of women: The role of women in urban civil society is impressive. The garment industry, while exploitative, has given rural women options. Women inherit half what men do by Islamic law, but in practice women inherit even less than that.
Freedom: Despite government repression, private media, especially television, have played a major role in highlighting irregularities. The government media are used entirely for propaganda.
Sexual minorities: Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by 10 years? imprisonment or more. It is therefore difficult to be publicly gay, but ambiguous sexuality is accepted and hijras (men adopting female gender identity) often perform in religious ceremonies. Gay groups exist, but use other criteria for their association.
NI Assessment (Politics)

The new government had a landslide electoral victory. It had the public mandate for bringing about change, its campaign promise. But it has been business as usual. Extrajudicial killings have increased, as have the prices of essentials. The government has been more concerned with political games than with addressing serious issues. Unless it can control the rampant hooliganism of its student wing, the Chatra League, the next election will see a complete reversal.

Where Three Dreams Cross


By Rosa Maria Falvo

Spanning 150 years of photography from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, this ambitious survey of historic and contemporary works includes over 400 images by 82 artists. Using ‘shared culture’ as a parameter, it is the first comprehensive vision of South Asia to be presented in the West; these images are not ‘about’ the region and there are no European perspectives to be seen. Indeed, those looking for a text driven, ethnographic narrative of an ex-colonial world will sadly be missing the point.
Installed in a bastion of Western art ? London’s Whitechapel Gallery ? 63 years after Indian Independence and the subsequent dissolution of the British Raj, this show aspires to explore its topography with decidedly indigenous eyes. Of course, politics is inherent in picture making ? our ‘ways of seeing’ and the context in which we see them pose fundamental issues. Refreshingly, this is a case of self-discovery, a kind of meditative picturing of a collective self and its geographical truths, where the ‘other’ is observing from within.

Workers at a construction site. Circa 1988. ??Mohammad Ali Salim/Drik/Majority World

Images like Mohammad Ali Salim’s Worker’s at a city construction site? (Bangladesh, 1980) and Mohammad Arif Ali’s Rainy Days Image of Lahore (Pakistan, 2008) are not invested in archetypal victims or street urchins. While they do not ignore the pain or the facts, they offer a purposeful and frequently hopeful alternative to the media driven images of death and destruction, which have arguably desensitised audiences on the ‘outside’. The curators have set out to question and even defy our received notions of the Subcontinent, presenting a sort of counter-colonial response to the official Western history of photography. They are asking us to celebrate South Asia’s contribution, beginning in India in 1850, and in this sense the show becomes a pioneering catalyst, inspired by the gaps.
The curatorial line wants to trace the finer social and creative turning points inherent in each body of work. Sunil Gupta references a particular instance in how transsexuals are depicted in the context of the historic “fluidity of sexuality in India”, previously outlawed under colonial law. While homogenisation is an obvious danger, he is quick to remind us that “culture cannot be partitioned”, and the power of photography to engage contemporary audiences is such that ‘Westerners’ are likely to notice the similarities between these nations, while ‘South Asians’ are necessarily sensitive to their differences. But the landscape is shifting, as ‘majority world‘ issues are increasingly addressed by those who understand them most and can no longer be ignored. More representations of the internal structures of hitherto ‘foreign’ realities will eventually balance out those one-dimensional visions of systems, symptoms, and conflicts. If there is a trend in the emergence of ‘indigenous photographers’ it is that they are able to achieve an intimacy with their subjects which enhances their humanity. For me it is this authenticity of image making that carries the editorial eloquence of its subject matter.
Paradoxically, despite its thriving art market, photography as a discipline is still emerging in India. And in Pakistan interest in this medium by a new generation of artists is a promising but recent phenomenon. Bangladesh has led the way with an established international festival – Chobi Mela – and Dhaka’s dynamic Drik gallery (Sanskrit for vision) which has represented local professionals for more than 20 years.
This show is arranged in five thematic sections, which inevitably blend into and across national stories: the portrait, the performance, the family, the street, and the body politic.
The wife of popular Bollywood movie star Amitabh Bachhan, Joya Vaduri, before marriage. The image on the cover of Film Fare magazine is of Sharmila Thakur. This image was taken while Joya Vaduri and her friend Sharmila Thakur were shooting in Satyajit Ray's movie "Mahanagar" at Studio Nol. The beard and moustache was painted on the face of Sharmila Thakur with pen. The Headline reads "The way I would like to see you." Joya. 1963. ??Amanul Huq/Drik/Majority World

Portrait of Mother Teresa. Dhaka, Bangladesh. January, 1981. ??Nasir Ali Mamun/Drik/Majority World

Legendary photographers from Bangladesh, such as Amanul Huq and Nasir Ali Mamun are presented?alongside their present-day counterparts, such as?Abir Abdullah, Shumon Ahmed, and Shahidul Alam.
Sex workers attend a protest rally with torch after the eviction from the 180 year old brothel at Tanbazaar, Narayangonj. ??Abir Abdullah/Drik/Majority World

Shumon Ahmed self portrait

Surrounded by her worldly belongings, a woman cooks the family meal. The next day, the water had risen another three feet. Jinjira, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 1988. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

There are works from the early 19th century from the renowned Alkazi Collection in Delhi, the Abhishek Poddar Collection in Bangalore, and the White Star Archive in Karachi, and many previously unseen works from family archives, galleries, and established contemporary artists. We see hand-painted images of courtesans and families by anonymous photographers in the very first Indian-run studios, journalistic depictions of key political events (Rashid Talukder’s Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returns to his homeland? in 1972 and Benazir Bhutto’s arrival at Karachi airport in 1988), and cutting edge reconfigurations of the built up environment (Farida Batool’s “Nai Reesan Shehr Lahore Diyan” 2006, and Rashid Rana’s Twins 2007). As virtual co-protagonists in the unfolding of these stories, viewers are left to provide their own social critiques.
Bangladesh : Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returns to his homeland on being released from the jail in Pakistan. January, 1972. ??Rashid Talukder/Drik/Majority World

Fantastic circus acts (Saibal Das’s Matinee Show 2001) and glamorous Bollywood stars (Dev Anand and Meena Kumari in the 1950s) capture portraits within portraits, reinforcing photography’s ability to empower the object of its gaze. Here is a region reconstructing its own image, touching on castes and sexuality as naturally as geopolitics and environmental disasters. It is not the ‘otherness’ we need to consider, but rather our willingness to become re-acquainted with what we have presumed to know.
Echoing the literary musing of one of the curators, Radhika Singh, who titled the show on a line from T.S Eliot’s Ash Wednesday (1930) – “This is the time of tension between dying and birth; The place of solitude where three dreams cross?” – I can’t help recalling William Blake’s Letter to Revd Dr Trusler (1799) – “As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers”. Packaging imagery and argument is always problematic, but this show’s self-assured and celebratory tones manage to amaze both aesthetically and intellectually. As if the collective lens were refocused on the circulation of discourse and the forging of transnational connections between people across time. It’s a pity this exhibition is not, at least at this stage, travelling to places like Birmingham or Leicester, where the fields of vision from within contemporary Britain would no doubt offer even richer educational perspectives.
Rosa Maria Falvo
Independent writer and curator, with a focus on Asian contemporary art. She is the Asia-Pacific Publications and Projects Consultant for Skira International Publishing in Milan.
Podcast of my talk at a symposium at the show in Fotomuseum Winterthur
Symposium at Fotomuseum Winterthur
First published in Nafas Art Magazine a project of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa, Germany)

Where Three Dreams Cross

When Three Dreams Cross Banner

(Left to right: Abir Abdullah/Drik, Golam Kasem Daddy/Drik, Abdul Hamid Kotwal/Drik, Nasir Ali Mamun/Drik, Rashid Talukder/Drik, Mohammad Ali Salim/Drik)

150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

[ 21 January ? 11 April 2010 ]

The work of Bangladesh?s historic and contemporary photographers come together in a landmark exhibition which explores culture and modernity through the lens of photographers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Where Three Dreams Cross is a major survey of historic and contemporary photography from the subcontinent, with over 400 works by 82 artists, to be held at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, UK.
From the archives of Drik, legendary Bangladeshi photographers such as Golam Kasem Daddy, Sayeeda Khanom, Amanul Huq, Nasir Ali Mamun and Rashid Talukder will exhibit alongside their contemporary counterparts, including Abir Abdullah, Munem Wasif, Momena Jalil and Shumon Ahmed. Dr. Shahidul Alam, founder and director of Drik, will also be exhibiting and was one of the curators who brought the show together.
Images on show range from the earliest days of photography in 1860 to the present day. Seminal works from the most important collections of historic photography, including the renowned Alkazi Collection in Delhi, the Drik Archive in Dhaka, the Abhishek Poddar Collection in Bangalore, and the White Star Archive in Karachi join many previously unseen images from private family archives, galleries, individuals and works by leading contemporary artists.
Where Three Dreams Cross gives an inside view of photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.? It includes images from the first Indian-run photographic studios in the 19th century, social realism and reportage photography from the 1940s,
the documentation of key political moments, amateur photography from the 1960s, and street photography from the 1970s. Contemporary documentary-style photographs of everyday life present an economic and social critique, while the
recent digitalisation of photography accelerates crossovers with fashion, film and documentary.


  • ? For further press information or images please contact:

Jessica Lim at
Rachel Mapplebeck
Elizabeth Flanagan

  • ? Exhibition Details:

Opening times: Tuesday ? Sunday, 11am ? 6pm, Thursdays, 11am ? 9pm.
Tickets: ?8.50/?6.50 concs. Free to under 18s.
Whitechapel Gallery, 77 ? 82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX.

  • The exhibition tours to the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, 11 June ? 22 August 2010.
  • A full colour catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with a curator?s introduction and essays by Sabeena Gadihoke, Geeta Kapur and Christopher Pinney.
  • Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is supported by: Andy Warhol Foundation, Columbia Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
  • ? List of Participating Artists:

? Abir Abdullah, Bani Abidi, Syed Mohammad Adil, Ravi Agarwal, Shumon Ahmed, Aasim Akhtar, Shahidul Alam, Mohammad Arif Ali, Mohammad Amin, Kriti Arora, Abul Kalam Azad, Pablo Bartholomew, Farida Batool, Jyoti Bhatt, Babba Bhutta, Hasan Bozai, Sheba Chhachhi, Children of Sonagachi, Bijoy Chowdhury, works produced by CMAC, Iftikhar Dadi, Saibal Das, Prabuddha Dasgupta, Shahid Datawala, Lala Deen Dayal, Anita Dube, Gauri Gill, Asim Hafeez, Amanul Huq, Sohrab Hura, Fawzan Husain, Manoj Kumar Jain, Momena Jalil, Sunil Janah, Tapu Javeri, Samar and Vijay Jodha, Golam Kasem Daddy, Sayeeda Khanom, Dinesh Khanna, Anita Khemka, Sonia Khurana, Abdul Hamid Kotwal, Arif Mahmood, Nasir Ali Mamun, Anay Mann, Deepak John Matthew, Huma Mulji, Nandini Valli Muthiah, Pushpamala N., T.S. Nagarajan, D. Nusserwanjee, Prashant Panjiar, Praful Patel, Mohammad Akram Gogi Pehlwan, Dileep Prakash, Ram Rahman, Raghu Rai, Khubi Ram Gopilal, Rashid Rana, Kushal Ray, Kulwant Roy, Vicky Roy, Mohammad Ali Salim, T.S. Satyan, Tejal Shah, Tanveer Shahzad, Ketaki Sheth, Fahim Siddiqi, Bharat Sikka, Dayanita Singh, Nony Singh, Pamela Singh, Raghubir Singh, Swaranjit Singh, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, Vivan Sundaram, S.B. Syed, Rashid Talukdar, Ayesha Vellani, Homai Vyarawalla, Munem Wasif, G.A. Zaidi.

  • ? Curators:

Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is curated by Sunil Gupta, photographer, writer and curator; Shahidul Alam founder and Director of Drik Archive and Pathshala, Dhaka, Bangladesh; Hammad Nasar, co-founder of the not-for-profit arts organisation Green Cardamom, London, UK; Radhika Singh the founder of Fotomedia, Delhi?s first photo library and Kirsty Ogg from the Whitechapel Gallery.

  • ? The Five Themes (Incorporating historic, modern and contemporary works):

The Perfomance focuses on the golden age of Bollywood in the 1940s and 50s and includes images of actors and circus performers by Saibal Das and Bijoy Chowdhury as well as artistic practices that engage with ideas of masquerade. In addition to
glamorous photographs of actors, film stills and behind the scenes action shots, this section also includes the work of Umrao Sher-Gil, Bani Abidi, Sayeeda Khanom, Sonia Khurana, Amanul Huq and Pushpamala N.
The Portrait charts the evolution of self-representation, through the portraiture of a range of individuals from maharajas to everyday people. Works range from nineteenth century studio portraiture drawn from the Alkazi Collection to Pakistani
street photography by Babba Bhutta, Mohammad Akram Gogi Pehlwan and Iqbal Amin as well as contemporary work that offers a new take on the form by Shumon Ahmed, Gauri Gill and Samar and Vijay Jodha.
The Family explores and close relationships and group affiliations within society. It traces a history from late nineteenth century hand-painted family portraiture by artists such as Khubi Ram Gopilal through to informal amateur snaps by Nony Singh and Swaranjit Singh as well as contemporary investigations of creed, communities and race.
The Streets addresses the built environment, social documentary and street photography. This section encompasses a range of works from the early studies by Lala Deen Dayal to images of a globalising India by Bharat Sikka. It intersperses the
photo-documentary traditions of Ram Rahman and Raghubir Singh with contemporary practices by artists such as Iftikhar Dadi and Rashid Rana.
The Body Politic looks at political moments and movements within the subcontinent?s history. It touches upon the key dates of 1857, 1947 and 1971, as well as expanding beyond the tension lines between castes and beliefs to explore sexuality and eco-politics.? Portraits of nineteenth century courtesans feature alongside portraits of politicians. Also included are Sunil Janah and Homai Vyarawalla?s iconic press images, the photo journalism of Tanveer Shahzad and Rashid Talukdar, Kriti Arora?s? documentation of Kashmir, Munem Wasif?s? images recording the effects of global warming in Bangladesh and Sheba Chhachhi?s female mendicants.
Review in Guardian (UK)
Review in Independent (UK)

Bangladesh, Pakistan and India through a lens

A major new exhibition of photographs from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India leaves novelist Kamila Shamsie troubled, captivated ? and wanting more

Mohammad Arif Ali's photograph of rain in Lahore. Photograph: White Star, Karachi/Whitechapel gallery
Mohammad Arif Ali's photograph of rain in Lahore. Photograph: White Star, Karachi/Whitechapel gallery

So much for the post-national, globalised world. Looking through hundreds of photographs from?India,?Pakistan and?Bangladesh, which will go on show at the Whitechapel Gallery in London this month, I find myself unable to follow the curators’ lead. Wisely, they have chosen to group the images thematically, rather than according to nationality; but almost immediately I am looking hungrily for Pakistan (my homeland), largely ignoring India, and pausing longest at pictures of Bangladesh from 1971, the year in which it ceased to be East Pakistan.

It isn’t that I don’t find anything of interest in India or in photographs of it. But of the three nations, India has always been the most visually reproduced; many of the photographs taken there feel over-familiar. This is not the over-familiarity of a scene I’ve personally witnessed or inhabited: it is the compositions or the subject matter or sometimes the photograph itself that I feel I’ve seen time and time again. There is Gandhi stepping out of that train; there are the Mumbai boys leaping into a body of water on a hot day; there is the movie poster in the style of movie posters.

It is something of a surprise to find how intent I am on tracking down pictures of Pakistan. I have spent the greater part of my life there and will be returning shortly, but neither homesickness nor estrangement lie behind my wanting to see more. It is the role of photographs themselves in Pakistan that may serve as explanation. There is still very little appreciation of photo-graphy as an art form, so pictures tend to fall into three categories: private celebrations, news ? and cricket. I have seen countless pictures of weddings, of burning buses, of a fast bowler winding his arm over his shoulder at the end of his run-up. Life’s more quotidian details occur away from the lens, and so feel unacknowledged. Pakistan is a nation tremendously poor at acknowledging what goes on when it comes to individual lives, and bad at acknowledging the sweep of its own history. Great areas of the past and present remain away from the nation’s gaze.

If there is one period in history from which Pakistan most adamantly averts its eyes, it is 1971. That year, Pakistan ceased to be a nation with two wings, and the state of Bangladesh came into being. And so I turn to the Bangladeshi photographers in order to fix my gaze on that blood-soaked epoch. I don’t even realise I’m doing this, at first. I think I’m looking at a man’s head, cast in marble; the sculpture is cheek-down amid a cluster of stones, almost camouflaged by?them. Then I read the caption: “Dismembered head of an intellectual killed 14 December 1971 by local collaborators of Pakistani army. Bangladesh.” It is extraordinarily eerie, and sad. There are other pictures of that period, too. Many, if not all, will probably be familiar to anyone from Bangladesh; none are part?of Pakistan’s consciousness.

Pakistan’s erasure of its own muddled history is the subject of Bani Abidi’s witty series of photographs, The Ghost of Mohammad Bin Qasim. In?the nation’s attempt to create an official history, which focuses on Muslims in the subcontinent (rather than Pakistan’s geographical boundaries), the Arab general Bin Qasim (712 AD) was lauded for being the first Muslim to successfully lead a military campaign in India ? even though he did little to consolidate his position. In Abidi’s photographs, a man in Arab dress is shot at different locations in Karachi, including the mausoleum of?the nation’s secular founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The man is clearly Photoshopped in, deliberately so: he represents the attempt to graft a false history on to Pakistan, linking it to the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia.

While Abidi’s work asks the viewer to engage with history and politics, there are others that draw a more visceral response. Mohammad Arif Ali’s photograph of rain in Lahore captures the size and force of raindrops during the monsoons; the vivid colours at the edge of the frame also evoke how startlingly rinsed of dust the whole world looks. The boy darting out into the downpour, ahead of a line of traffic, his shalwar kameez plastered to his skin, is both lord of the world and a tiny creature, in danger of being crushed. It brings a familiar world vividly to mind. And yet, of course, exactly this scene could be played out ? and photographed ? in Delhi or Dhaka. It is foolish of me to think of it as quintessentially Pakistani. Sometimes these countries are three; sometimes one: the movement between three distinct nations and one?region is impossible to pin down.

Away from the pictures of 1971, the Bangladeshi images are both unfamiliar (Munem Wasif‘s picture of a Burmese worker struggling through bushes in Bangladesh) and familiar: notably, Abir Abdullah’s Women Working in Old Dhaka, which shows two women making chapatis together, though their positioning suggests distance rather than camaraderie. Is their lack of proximity a consequence of class or personality?

I turn back to the pictures of India and am almost immediately struck by Ram Rahman’s Young Wrestlers, Delhi: two boys, each wearing a pair of briefs. It is mystifying that I didn’t notice before how one of them stares assertively at the camera, his muscles relaxed, in the most casual of poses. The other’s eyes are unsure, his muscles tensed, he is trying to suck in his stomach and puff up his chest, and there is a rip, it seems, in his briefs. The boys are touching but it’s clear they aren’t friends ? not at the moment, at least. I worry for the tensed boy. He is going to lose his wrestling match; he is going to lose it badly.

And then there is Anay Mann’s picture of a breastfeeding woman with headphones over her ears: she looks wary, her head angled away from the camera. Is there someone in the room, just out of the camera’s reach? Or has she retreated into her own thoughts? And why is it that children’s toys can add such menace to a picture, as is the case with the yellow smiling object, its head bobbing, at the edge of the image?

I would see this exhibition differently if it were in Karachi. Or Mumbai. Or Dhaka. In London, I am so far removed from these landscapes I’m aware of the photographs’ “otherness”. But there’s also this: any kind of simultaneous engagement between these three nations, with so much in common and so much that sets them apart, is almost unheard of within the subcontinent itself. In Karachi, Dhaka or Mumbai, I would spend a very long time watching people look at these photographs. How we see ourselves; how we see each other ? these two questions would be politically charged where they are not here. Strange that, only 63 years after the Raj, London should seem such a historically neutral venue, comparatively speaking.