Given the recent attempts, by authoritarian forces which I have been critical of, to undermine my credibility, I feel the reasons why I take photographs need to be tabled.
MAHASWETA DEVI (JANUARY 14, 1926 – JULY 28, 2016), WRITER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST
Protocol wasn’t Didi’s thing. Shoitan! (Satan) she would say lovingly. And then grab you and plonk you on her lap. The fact that both Rahnuma and I were far too old, and I was certainly much too heavy, to be sitting on anyone’s lap wasn’t something she worried much about. She didn’t care much for people’s age, and what other people thought, was something that had never bothered her. If you love someone, they sit on your lap. “You have a problem with that?”
Mahasweta Devi (Didi ‘elder sister’ to all of us) had been a giant of a figure in South Asian literature for as far back as I can remember. “Jhansir Rani”(The Queen of Jhansi, 1956), Hajar Churashir Maa (Mother of 1084, 1975) and “Aranyer Adhikar”(The Occupation of the Forest, 1977) her powerful novel about the Santal uprising were what we knew this celebrated writer and activist by. That she was a tease and loved to sing, and didn’t mind the odd practical joke, was a side to her that had remained private. What should have been apparent was the rebel in her; her uncompromising stand for the oppressed, and her clear position as to which side of the fence she belonged. Continue reading “Didi. The Street Fighter”
A prominent voice of Bangladeshi identity, Shahidul Alam has garnered acclaim for documenting his nation?s many struggles. As an activist and photographer, he has distinguished himself in international art gatherings, winning accolades for his work that has sought to narrate the story of pain and hopelessness, of the need to fight for justice. He has also founded Majority World, a photo agency that looks to promote talent in Third World nations. TOI-Crest catches up with Alam at the Kochi Biennale. Continue reading “The war of '71 never ended”
Rupert Grey, media and copyright lawyer, journalist, photographer and teacher, based in Covent Garden London.
Dr Alam’s aspiration is to teach the pixels to dance. It is a characteristically elegant and evocative phrase in comparison with the generally arid language of the digital lexicon, and it conveys the ambit of his vision and the scope of his knowledge. His Journey is a considerable one. It takes the author from a PhD in chemistry in London to photographer, political activist and educationalist in Bangladesh; it spans the 40 years since the birth of his native country, when he was 16, to its coming of age as an economic and political power amongst Asian nations. Alam has played his part in that growing up. He has challenged oppression and fought for justice and freedom of speech, not infrequently at considerable risk to himself and his partner Rahnuma Ahmed,[i] and he has forged an international reputation.[ii] My Journey as a Witness, published by Skira, Milan, 2011 is a self portrait of an activist who has used photography to chronicle his nation’s anguish.[iii] Continue reading “Shahidul Alam’s My Journey as a Witness”
To draw attention to these killings, photographer Shahidul Alam created a project callled ‘Crossfire’ which has shown amidst?controversy?in Bangladesh. The show later went to Queen’s Museum in New York and now comes to Australia.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Shahidul Alam, award-winning photographer and human rights activist.
Exhibitions in Powerhouse Museum Brisbane: Bangladesh 1971 and?Crossfire
Please Retweet #stopcrossfire
This is a sequel to an earlier film ‘Journeying with Mahasveta Devi’, and the second in the trilogy being made on the Magsasay Award winning writer-activist made by Drik India. The viewed and the viewer, the act and the response, form the basic pattern of this film and closes up further with both the inner-self and the outer-self of Mahasveta Devi.
The film has been selected in the international?competitive?section at Mumbai International Film Festival 2012.
8th January 2012. Taipei
One of the videos presented. A compilation from several videos on major protests in 2011
Long before CSR had become a buzzword and superstars and corporates began to find it essential to have pet social causes to support, we had set up Drik, a small organisation in Bangladesh, which made social justice its raison d’?tre.
Over two decades later, when my show on extra judicial killings at the gallery of Drik, was interpreted by a group of international curators as a ?fantastic performance?. It was time for me to take stock, and see where the art world situated itself and whether I belonged to this marketplace.
As collective movements go, the sub-continent has had its share. Colonial rule, oppression by the landed gentry, women?s struggle for equality in a patriarchal society and the injustice of caste have all been challenged. The solidarity of sustained groups, often against overwhelmingly stronger entities with far greater resources. had been a trademark for undivided India and for Bengal in particular.
It was the dynamics of a ruling class propped up by local agents who stood to profit from inequality, that led to the Gandhian strategy of non-violent resistance. Other methods had also been tried, and Subhas Chandra Bose, with a much more militant outlook, also had a huge following. The Tebhaga peasant movement by the Kisan Sabha had led to laws being formulated that limited the share of the landlords.
Partition did not cure these ills. The ouster of the British did not break up the class structure, but replaced one set of exploiters with another. The British, and other imperial powers continued to maintain unequal trade relations, sometimes in the guise of aid.
Cultural activists in Bangladesh had operated within this milieu. With the military under the control of the West wing, the more populous East Pakistan felt the weight of oppression. Military rule became the vehicle for continued repression but failed to quell the unrest and even the final genocidal attack on the people of East Pakistan, was repulsed by a countrywide resistance.
An independent Bangladesh, free of foreign occupiers, should have been a land free of repression. The reality was very different and cultural activists have had to find new ways of resistance. This has required documentation, articulation and tools of creative expression to deal with injustice in many forms. Having been failed by the major political parties (both government and opposition), cultural actors formed their own groups. Operating with minimum resources, we devised numerous initiatives to mobilise public opinion. Using both new and traditional media, as well as the networking ability of social media we formed lean and tenacious campaigns that chipped away at the establishment and its cohorts insisting on being heard and bent on achieving justice.
But the corporatization of modern Bangladesh has brought about many changes. I remember as a child that we used to respond to natural disasters by grouping together, singing songs, raising money, collecting food and old clothes and going out to affected areas to distribute them. We now leave such activities to the NGOs. Social movements are now sponsored by multinationals and protesters in rallies have sunshades parading the brand logos of telecom companies.
We had simultaneously taken on the hegemony of the west and its new southern accomplices, as well as the repressive regimes that operated within the nation state. But today we also need to examine how social movements have been appropriated, and our inability to operate without ?funding? regardless of the cause seriously limits our capacity for social and political intervention.
As an artist, as an activist, and as an organizer, I have along with my colleagues taken on technology, art, education and culture in its diverse forms and have presented a cohesive front that has challenged the military, major political parties and corporates, while continuing to operate independently within public and private spheres.
The presentation attempts to show how, by resisting not only the formal entities that have usurped power, but also the cultural norms that attempt to pigeon-hole cultural practice in terms of ?fine art?, I as an individual artist, as well as worker in a commune, have tried to ensure that our ?art? does not limit itself to admiration in a gallery. It breathes the gunpowder laden air of street battles with police, the dank vapours of the factory floor and pervades the silence of patriarchal inner chambers.
8th January 2012
Drik Day 24 september
On the 4th Septeber 1989, something remarkable happened in Bangladesh. Please join us as Drik joyously celebrates 22 years of distinctive creativity
Saturday, 24 September 2011
6.00 pm?Welcome Dr. Shahidul Alam
6.10 pm?Memories 2010-2011
6.20 pm?Golam Kasem Daddy Memorial Lecture III?by Catherine Masud
7.00 pm?Photo exhibition by Drik?s staff photographers: Mahabub Alam Khan, Saikat Mojumder and Wahid Adnan
Opening by Guest of Honour?Frederiek Biemans, World Press Photo
Photo Exhibition:?25-30 September, 2011, 3 pm-8 pm
Golam Kasem Daddy Memorial Lecture::?Drik Rooftop
Photo Exhibition:?Drik Gallery 1 (first ?oor)?House 58, Road 15 A (New)?Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209
Lookout for the newly launched Drik website
For those of you who cannot come to the book launch of “My journey as a witness” watch it live at Drik TV
Shahidul Alam: My Journey as a Witness
Edited by Rosa Maria Falvo
- September 23, 2011
- Photography – Individual Photographer
- 9-1/2 x 11
About This Book
An insight into the evolution of one of the most significant movements in contemporary photography, through the eyes and voice of the man who shaped it. An extraordinary artist, Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, activist, and social entrepreneur who used his art to chronicle the social and artistic struggles in a country known largely for poverty and disasters.
Lucid and personal, this much-awaited book includes over 100 photographs tracing Alam?s artistic career, activism, and the founding of photography organizations. From early images shot in England to photographs of the last two decades in his native Bangladesh, this is a journey from photojournalism into social justice. Alam?s superb imagery is matched by his perceptive accounts, at once deeply intimate and bitingly satirical.
About the Author
Shahidul Alam, profoundly influenced by inequality in his native Bangladesh and The Liberation War, pursued a life in photography to challenge oppression and imperialism in all its forms. Attacked, arrested, and threatened with death, Alam built what many consider to be the finest photography school in the world, an award-winning agency, and the world?s most diverse photography festival. Widely celebrated, Alam claims as his achievements not the awards and exhibitions but the people he has trained and the lives he has transformed.?Rosa Maria Falvo is a writer and curator, and Skira?s international commissions editor, specializing in Asian contemporary art.
Shahidul has managed to create a community, giving it a framework and creating links, as he has already done in Bangladesh. This is not merely another virtual community, like so many others, which have undoubtedly demonstrated their utility, but a truly concrete ensemble, which is a composite of all generations attached to their native soil, who share a much vaster territory than that of any one country. The territory I speak of is, of course, the photographic world of Shahidul Alam, which is also mine, as well as each and every one of ours. A world where we can daily sense our conscience and our faith in our planet.
In India we have many more photographers, some of them very good, and there are many galleries for art and especially photography. As well as reputed newspapers and magazines ? much is happening on many levels. But we don?t have a Shahidul Alam, who can combine them into a cohesive social and creative force.
The book was launched in Dhaka on the 23rd September 2011
The touring version on the exhibition will open at the Wilmotte Gallery (formerly Patrick Litchfield’s studio) in London on the 6th October 2011
The London launch (Grand Hyatt Churchill) will take place on the 10th October 2011
The New Delhi launch (Habitat Centre) will take place on the 15th October 2011
The New York launch (Rizolli Book Store) is on the 10th November 2011
A trailer for the book: