My So-Called 'Post-Feminist' Life in Arts and Letters

Deborah Copaken Kogan?is a novelist whose most recent work, The Red Book (Hyperion), will be out in paperback on May 7. The Nation.

My So-Called Post-Feminist Literary Life
The author’s 2002 book about her career as a war photographer was titled “Shutterbabe”?against her wishes. Illustration by Milton Glaser Incorporated.
My latest novel was just long-listed ?for Britain’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Orange Prize. I cried when I heard. Then I Googled it. Here are a few things I learned: it was founded in response to the 1991 Booker Prize, whose nominees were all men; it is frequently modified by the adjective “prestigious”; and it is controversial. Why do we need a separate prize for women, ask the columnists, year after year, in one form or another, following the announcement of the nominees. Continue reading “My So-Called 'Post-Feminist' Life in Arts and Letters”

Shahidul Alam in conversation with Ranjit Hoskote at Goa LitFest

7:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Tuesday 20th December
Goa Literary Festival

My Journey as a Witness

Shahidul Alam in conversation with Ranjit Hoskote

Goa Arts and Literary Festival Dec 17-21

The 2nd Goa Arts and Literary Festival is meant to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Goa’s liberation after 451 years of colonial rule. It will reflect on the idea of India as reflected through the perspective of cultures, communities and writers of the country. It is hosted by the International Centre Goa from December 17-21.
The festival will touch upon Diaspora, on the Goan and other Indian migrant communities across the world which retain different ideas about what being Indian means; North-East of India and its art, music and literature. The festival will celebrate music, painting and photography, poetry, journalism and publishing, debates, discussions and book-releases: from 17-21 December. Local, national and international delegates will be attending.
Exactly 50 years after the historic days when Indian troops conquered, and annexed Goa. It was another dramatic moment in history for this tiny territory. Each day of the Festival will recall 1961, featuring historians and witnesses to the sensational events as they occurred, as well as lectures, special book releases, and panel discussions about the Goan experience of the Estado da India, quite different from much of the rest of the subcontinent’s experience with the British Raj.
The 2011 Goa Arts and Literary Festival will celebrate creative excellence across India, with a special focus on Goa and its Diaspora. As with the inaugural edition, there will be prominent daily showcases for the best contemporary poetry from across India, and for the extraordinary writers and musicians of the North East.
Events such as this Festival will be held annually so that the quality of the Festival is enriched and enhanced every year by involving more and more people and their ideas and the image of Goa in people?s mind is of a more vibrant cultural and intellectual destination.
Participating Authors:
Aatish Taseer, Abhay Sardesai, Amitav Ghosh, Anand Patwardhan, Anjum Hasan, Aniruddha Sen Gupta, Bhalchandra Nemade,Bilal Tanweer,Charles Correa,Chiki Sarkar, C P Surendran, Cyril Almeida, Deborah Baker, Desmond L Kharmawphlang, Eunice de Souza, Fatima Bhutto, Gulzar, H M Naqvi, Jai Arjun Singh, Jeet Thayil, Jerry Pinto,Jonathan Shainin, Kiran Nagarkar, Kjell Eriksson, Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih, Manohar Shetty, Mamang Dai, Meena Kandasamy, Mitra Phukan, Mohammed Hanif, Mridula Garg,M. T. Vasudevan Nair, Naresh Fernandes, Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee, Pablo Bartholomew, Pavan K Varma, Raghunath Mashelkar, Ranjit Hoskote, Robin Ngangom, S. Anand, Sadia Dehlvi, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Samar Halarnkar, Sidharth Bhatia, Shahidul Alam, Shailaja Bajpai, Shehan Karunatilaka, Sheen Kaaf Nizam, Sivasankari, Sonia Faleiro, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Sunil Khilnani, U.R. Ananthamurthy, Urvashi Butalia,Temsula Ao,Teju Cole, Vishwas Patil, Zac O’Yeah
Participating Artists and Performers:
Dr. Alka Pande, Atul Dodiya, Durgabai Vyam, Gulam Mohd Sheikh, Himanshu Suri, Lou Majaw, Luis Gumby Pinto, Subhash Vyam,Dr. Subodh Kerkar, Suresh Jayaram, Suresh Jayaram, Vijay Iyer

FiveBooks Interview

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The Bangladeshi photojournalist tells us about the power of images and offers some striking examples of the photographer as artist, witness or activist

What are your thoughts on the power of images as compared with the power of words?
They complement each other very well. We storytellers use whatever works. Where a picture makes a difference is that it?s much more difficult to block out a photograph, because of its immediacy. You can choose whether you read a body of text or not, or on which of many layers you interact with it, such as just the headline. You may decide how you interpret a photograph, but very rarely is there the option to not absorb it. Something as powerful as photography can be used and abused ? it can push people into war, it can be used as propaganda, and it can create racism.
Let?s start with your own book, My Journey as a Witness, which contains over 100 photographs. How would you describe it?
My book documents the journey of an activist as a photographer. I suppose it?s also a history book ? the photography movement in Bangladesh was immersed in its political struggles. I was on the streets during the protests against?General Ershad?s regime. There was repression and people were killed. When Ershad announced he was stepping down on 5 December 1990, it was a major public victory, because the people had brought down a very powerful general. It was a phenomenal thing to be part of and observe. The experience led to my career in photojournalism.
As a photographer I?m a very late starter. I come from a middle-class home, and most middle-class men in Bangladesh are expected to take on respectable professions. Photography doesn?t fall into that category. I?ve always been a very political animal. I wanted to play a role in working towards social equality, in my country and globally. The media seemed the most sensible place to do that.
Photojournalists in Bangladesh continue to face repression. Your own exhibition,?Crossfire, on extrajudicial killings was banned by the government on the basis that it would create ?anarchy?, and you received death threats. The closure was criticised by Amnesty International and later retracted. Do you believe photojournalists enjoy greater freedoms today than in the past?
I think the level of repression has increased in Bangladesh. It?s ironic, in the sense that we now live in a democracy ? to the extent that there are regular elections.
Your book also contains images of the English aristocracy ? why were they of interest to you as a photographer?
I shot those photographs for an Arts Council project. I felt it was important to take pictures of the English aristocracy. By and large, what I?d read about photography was about European conquests ? how anthropologists, writers and sociologists came to the colonies to index and categorise us, by documenting the width of our cranium, the length of our penis, and all other attributes. ?This is what you are,? we were told. So I thought perhaps I should turn this thing around. The project?s theme was ?work?, and I wanted to photograph people of leisure. Work is seen in terms of activity, but not in terms of the power structures that determine it. I thought it would be interesting to look at the people who decide what work is and how it is regulated, but rarely have to do manual work themselves. It wasn?t an easy project ? the better-off have doors to close on your face. It was difficult to explain what I wanted to do and still be allowed to take the pictures.

Image of Soweto


By Peter Magubane
Your second recommendation is?Soweto by Peter Magubane, who was the first black South African to win a photography award in the country. What makes this book special?
A lot of work about conflict has been undertaken by well-known war photographers. But?Soweto is the work of a black photographer living in the townships reserved for non-whites during apartheid. This book documents his struggle. He had close links with Nelson Mandela and was very involved in the struggle against apartheid. And as he was witnessing it he was also persecuted, and spent a lot of time in jail. Photography was much more dangerous as a black person.
Over a sustained period of time, and with a great deal of honesty and nearness, Magubane produced stunning images ? not just in terms of their action and strength, but also because he showed what was really happening in Soweto by capturing the relationship between blacks and whites. Take, for example, his photograph of a group of naked black men with their hands held up above their heads. Inspections such as these were standard procedure before allowing black workers to enter a mine. The humiliation and degradation of the search was, I suspect, part of the process to dehumanise them. Magubane?s work stands out as being the voice of the people.
Continue reading “FiveBooks Interview”