Shahidul Alam has long been gripped by the life of a woman he has never met.
It’s been two decades since Kalpana Chakma was abducted, but Shahidul refuses to forget her. Standing at the threshold of his latest exhibition,Kalpana’s Warriors, the Bangladeshi photographer pauses for a moment.
In the room beyond is the third in a series of photo exhibitions that began with Searching for Kalpana Chakma in 2013, and was followed by 18 in 2014. The woman around whom these pictures revolve is notably absent from them. She was abducted at gunpoint in the early hours of 12 June 1996 from her home in Rangamati in Bangladesh. Her captors were a group of plain-clothed men who were recognised as being from a nearby army camp. Kalpana never returned home and her fate remains unknown.
When the exhibition first opened at the Drik Gallery in Dhaka, many of those who had been photographed could not risk coming out of hiding, yet the room was full of people who knew Kalpana’s story intimately. Some simply stood for a while before the portraits, others wept. Continue reading “Kalpana's Warriors in Delhi”
Dhaka University, Shaheed Minar and CP Gang’s ‘bessha’ banner
by Rahnuma Ahmed
THIS story begins with the sudden and unexpected death of professor Piash Karim on October 13, 2014, of cardiac arrest. Piash, who had returned to Dhaka in 2007 after teaching for nearly two decades at an American university, had joined BRAC University and was teaching in the department of economics and social sciences. Dr Amena Mohsin, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, and Piash Karim got married in March 2013; high-school student Drabir Karim, Piash’s son from his first marriage, was part of their family. Earlier known in his circle of friends for his left-leaning views, Piash gradually gravitated towards the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, a centrist party and the ruling Awami League’s arch-enemy. He began frequenting television talk shows, popular, as no real debate takes place in the parliament. (The popularity of TV talk shows has drastically declined, however, with the silent black-listing of dissident voices; a couple of analysts have reportedly left the country). His comment that the Ganajagaran Mancha, initially composed of a small group of bloggers and activists calling for the hanging of war criminals of 1971, later mushrooming into a sea of people at Shahbagh square in Dhaka city and spreading nationwide, was developing ‘fascist’ undertones, earned him widespread denunciation. The movement was then riding high. Continue reading “HISTORY AS ETHICAL REMEMBRANCE”
Absolutely stunning: Jess Worth. New Internationalist Magazine (Oxford)
They told me you were quiet. But I felt the rage in your silence. That when you spoke, they rose above themselves. But I felt their fear. That they held you amidst them. But I felt their loneliness. They pointed to the Koroi tree where you would all meet. The banyan tree under which you spoke. Ever so powerfully. They pointed to the mud floor, where you slept. I touched the mat that you had rested upon, and I knew I had found the vessel that must hold your image.
They had tried to erase you, your people, your memory. They had torched your homes and when coercion failed, when you remained defiant, they took you away, in the dead of night.
The leaves burned as the soldiers stood and watched. The same leaves they weave to make your mat. The same leaves I shall burn, to etch your image. Will the burning mat hold your pain? Will the charred leaves hold your anger? Will the image rising from the crisp ashen leaves reignite us? Will you return Kalpana?
For nineteen years I have waited, my unseen sister. For nineteen years they have waited, your warriors. Pahari, Bangali, men, women, young old. Was it what you said? What you stood for? Was it because you could see beyond the land, and language, the shape of one?s eyes and see what it meant to be a citizen of a free nation? For pahari, bangali, bihari, man, woman, hijra, rich, poor, destitute, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Animist.
You had reminded us that a nation that fought oppression, could not rule by oppressing. That a people that fought for a language, could not triumph by suppressing another’s. That the martyrs who died, so we might be free, did not shed their blood, so we could become tyrants. That we who overcame the bullets and bayonets of soldiers, must never again be ruled through the barrel of a gun.
That Kalpana is what binds us. That is why Kalpana, you are not a pahari, or a woman or a chakma or a buddhist, but each one of us. For there can be no freedom that is built on the pain of the other. No friendship that relies on fear. No peace at the muzzle of a gun.
These Kalpana are your warriors. They have engaged in different ways, at different levels, sometimes with different beliefs. Some have stayed with you from the beginning. Others have drifted. They have not always shared political beliefs. But for you Kalpana, my unseen sister, they fight as one.
The process involved in creating these images are rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Repeatedly, the interviewees talked of the bareness of Kalpana’s home. That there was no furniture, that Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat.
Rather than print on conventional photographic media, we decided we would use material that was part of pahari daily lives. The straw mat became our canvas. The fire that had been used to raze pahari homes, also needed to be represented, so a laser beam was used to burn the straw, etching with flames, the images of rebellion.
It was the politics of this interaction that determined the physicality of the process. The laser beam consisted of a binary pulse. A binary present on our politics. In order to render the image, the image had to be converted in various ways. From RGB to Greyscale to Bitmap, from 16 bit to 8 bit to 1 bit. To keep detail in the skin tone despite the high contrast, the red channel needed to be enhanced. The Resolution and intensity and duration of the laser beam needed to be brought down to levels that resulted in the straw being selectively charred but not burnt to cinders.
A screen ruling that separated charred pixels while maintaining gradation had to be carefully selected. And then, working backwards, a lighting mechanism needed to be found that broke up the image into a discrete grid of light and dark tones, providing the contrast, the segmentation and the gradation, necessary to simulate the entire range of tones one expects in a fine print. This combination of lighting, digital rendering, printing technique and choice of medium, has led to the unique one off prints you see in this exhibition. A tribute to a unique woman that had walked among us.
IDLO Photo Exhibition in Rome Farnesina Porte Aperte 2015 22 – 29 May 2015
IDLO’s photo exhibition “In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda” will form part of this year’s initiative by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to open its doors to the general public. From 22 until 29 May 2015, visitors will be able to participate in “Farnesina Porte Aperte” and view the exhibition during guided tours of the building. The Farnesina’s art collection is internationally recognized, and IDLO is proud to have been chosen to exhibit alongside this.
Curated by IDLO and the photo agency Majority World, the exhibition focuses on the challenges of development and the rule of law. From gender equality and indigenous rights to energy poverty and land tenure, it presents the rule of law as lived experience. The pictures vividly explore the human side of the rule of law and its importance in everyday life.
“In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda” illustrates these themes through 32 images – taken by photographers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, India and Kenya – ranging from the Amazonian settlement of Colniza, Brazil, where rule of law measures have reversed illegal logging and deforestation, to the energy-starved metropolis of Kibera, Africa’s largest slum.
To sign up for a guided tour, please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation’s Farnesina Porte Aperte website and choose the “art route”, currently available from Monday 25 until Wednesday 27 May.
Before traveling to Rome, the exhibition was shown at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, to coincide with the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Over the coming months, it will be shown in Milan, New York, Washington and The Hague, and will return to Rome for an exclusive viewing in November.
Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.?American Anthropologist September, 2002 Vol.104(3): 783-790.
The main concern of the article is to determine if Muslim women do actually need saving. The focus is on the mandatory wearing of the veil, or burqa. The author discusses many groups that maintain that the Muslim women do need saving from the oppression that binds them to wear the burqa. The author also maintains that anthropologists, among others, should not be overly culturally relativistic but that they should recognize and respect cultural differences. Do those same petitioners that try and save the Muslim women also try and save the African women from genital mutilation or the Indian women from dowry deaths? No, they do not because they have been taught not to judge cultures based upon their own.
The basic argument of the author is that there should not be so much focus on the burqa, but on the other mandates that the women are forced to oblige. The burqa is not an imposition. The author states that should the women be released from this mandate, they would most likely choose another form of headcovering to wear. A headcovering is the appropriate form of dress for their community. The burqa symbolizes a woman’s modesty and respectability and provides protection from strange men in the public sphere. A burqa is a symbol of a “good woman” who is able to stay at home, not working outside with the public. The author refers to the burqa as a kind of “mobile home” in that the women would be in the “inviolable space of their homes, even though moving in the public realm”.
The author described the burqa and the practice of wearing one in Afghanistan and other Muslim societies. She also noted that the Taliban did not invent the burqa but they did impose the wearing of one on all women as being “religiously appropriate.” The author presented her arguments in a clear manner but also admits that she is not an expert on Afghanistan
The stunning fetal images by photographer Lennart Nilsson, first published in the April 3, 1965 issue of Life, have become iconic in the anti-abortion movement. According to Life Site News, Nilsson is credited with taking “photographs that the pro-life movement has found priceless: the earliest and most compelling visual images that give intimate detail and clarity to the humanity of unborn children in the womb.” Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, an anti-abortion advocacy organization, has said, “Images such as those created by Lennart Nilsson absolutely reaffirm the humanity of unborn persons, which is why they are so unpopular with pro-abortion forces.”
Nilsson certainly wasn’t the first to photograph the fetus. A number of photographs of embryos and fetuses appeared in the July 3, 1950 issue of Life magazine, but Nilsson was thought to be the first to photograph live fetuses in the uterus. The editor’s note of the 1965 issue of Lifereads,
The opening picture in Nilsson’s essay, a live baby inside the womb, is a historic and extraordinary photographic achievement… [A] doctor said, “As far as I know, in utero pictures such as Nilsson’s have never been taken before. When you take living tissue in its living state and view it in its natural surroundings you can see things you can’t see afterward. Being able to view the fetus inside the uterus, and being able to note its circulatory details, is rather sensational from our point of view.”
A group exhibition dedicated to the lost garment workers of Bangladesh.
Still haunted by the memories. When I close my eyes I see the procession of corpses, following me behind, taunting my sense of responsibility. 24th April, 2013, Rana Plaza collapses, 1134 lost to senseless greed, lives lost due to collective negligence. A dark day in the history of garments workers lives, a nightmare which will terrorize us for the rest of our lives. Amongst the rubble, hidden beneath the stones, beams and bricks, thousands of workers lie enveloped in darkness, their dreams crushed under the weight of our negligence.
“Without a doubt, this is the strongest set of images and written text that we have seen today. I get a clear sense that Farzana has an invested interest in conveying the horror of these attacks. Congratulations to all those who entered on undeniably strong work” Don McCullin, Patron.
“I am delighted that the judges have chosen another strong winning entry this year, both in terms of the importance of the subject and Farzana’s remarkable personal story that brought
her to approach it.” Aidan Sullivan Founder, IPS.
“One of the most rewarding experiences of judging this year’s award was seeing the explosion of work being submitted from foreign photographers, particularly Asia. I was impressed with
the standard and professionalism on display and how these photographers approached important social issues in their locality” Simon Roberts, Judge and former winner.
The judges felt that Farzana’s winning portfolio ‘Lingering Scars’ communicated an intensely personal story with brave and intelligent visual story telling of great strength and depth of composition. In Bangladesh, reports of violence against women are on the rise. Oftentimes, it takes the form of acid attacks, which are estimated to occur every two days, the majority of sufferers being female.
We received an unprecedented level of entries again this year, the standard was higher and applicants younger than ever before. Our judging is done as a process of elimination, so portfolios are removed from each round depending on their strength as a potential winner. The final round of portfolios from institutions like Pathshala, Danish School of Journalism, LCC UK, Westminster UK, Ohio USA, Falmouth UK, Newport and Azad University of Ahvaz, showed such flair and extraordinary vision that the judges found it difficult to select just four finalists.
Ian Parry was a photojournalist who died while on assignment for The Sunday Times during the Romanian revolution in 1989. That was 20 years ago, he was just 24 years of age. Aidan Sullivan, then picture editor at the Sunday Times, created the Ian Parry Scholarship with Ian’s friends and family in order to build something positive from such a tragic death.
This is the second time in three years that a Pathshala student has won this prestigious award. The 2011 award was won by Rasel Chowdhury with his work “Desperate Urbanisation“.
Farzana is a contributing photographer to the Majority World Agency. Her work was recently shown at the Guardian Gallery in London.