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”

As Drik as Possible

Introduction to the Drik 2016 calendar.

A behind the scenes glimpse at a remarkable media phenomenon:

The dot matrix Olivetti printer was noisy. The XT computer came without a hard drive: two floppy disks uploaded the operating system. When the electricity went (as it often did), we had to reload it. Our bathroom doubled as our darkroom. A clunky metal cabinet housed our prints, slides, negatives and files. Md. Anisur Rahman and Abu Naser Siddique were our printers; I was photographer, manager, copy editor and part-time janitor. Cheryle Yin-Lo, an Australian who had read about us in a western magazine, joined as our librarian. We offered and she happily accepted a local salary.

Continue reading “As Drik as Possible”

Footprint Modulation: art, climate and displacement

An exhibition by Metaceptive Projects + Media

5th June – 5th July 2015 across five venues in Durham, UK

Introductory description from the curator and artistic director, Kooj Chuhan
International artists, researchers, communities and local activists are combining forces using art to push climate change up the agenda in a ground-breaking exhibition titled Footprint Modulation. The exhibition focuses on the massive and increasing impact that climate change will have on humans by forcing us to abandon our homes and migrate. The renowned, award-winning Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam presents work for the first time in the North East. Platform based in London use film and performance to highlight the corruption within global oil. A number of UK-based artists from diverse backgrounds provoke us to connect with human realities in other countries. The New York based architecture and digital art company Diller Scofidio + Renfro present a film commissioned by the Cartier Foundation to artistically re-interpret data about climate migration.
FootprintModulation-poster_A4_PREVIEW Continue reading “Footprint Modulation: art, climate and displacement”

Majority World exhibition in Rome: Justice in Focus

IDLO Photo Exhibition in Rome
Farnesina Porte Aperte 2015
22 – 29 May 2015

justice in focus in rome

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.

The photographs were also featured by The Guardian.
guardian piece on justice in focus

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.

For more information, please read this article in Italy’s Corriere della Sera, visit theIDLO mini-site and watch video interviews with the photographers.

In pictures: India coal fires

Underground fires have been burning in the small dusty coal town of Jharia in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand for more than 80 years now. All efforts to put out the fires have been in vain. Photos: ©Arindam Mukherjee: BBC

Jharia coal fires
In places like Laltenganj, the fires are now burning overground. Continue reading “In pictures: India coal fires”

Rafiq Azam Architecture for Green Living

by Rosa Maria Falvo (Editor), Kerry Hill (Foreword), Kazi Khaled Ashraf (Contributor), Philip Goad (Contributor), Syed Manzoorul Islam (Contributor)

The first ever monograph on contemporary architectural practice in Bangladesh, dedicated to international-award-winning architect Mohammad Rafiq Azam.

Rafiq Azam is a world-renowned architect. He recently received the Residential Building of the Year Award at the 2012 Emirates Glass LEAF Awards, which took place during the 2012 London Design Festival.

He has a holistic approach to design, which not only incorporates the elements of nature but also harnesses its beauty and potential in a practical way in order to enhance the personal experience of a building. From his uniquely Bangladeshi perspective, the human form has two parts—the body as shell and thoughts as soul—and his architecture is similar, where the building manifests as the shell and nature as its soul. Considering the socioeconomic and city-planning conditions of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, Azam’s architectural vocabulary is kept simple and essential, with traditional spaces like the courtyard, pond, and ghat (steps leading into water) and ample internal and external greenery that merge both urban and rural typologies in an intensely urban context. He arranges water courts as swimming ponds in the middle of homes, natural light rooms, and unfolding wall systems to emphasize the interrelationship between form and space.

With more than 200 color and black-and-white plates, exquisite design sketches, and aerial views, as well as watercolor paintings and inspirational phrases, this exceptionally beautiful book is a unique introduction and insight into a visionary architect and Bangladeshi contemporary living and culture.


Rafiq Azam designed the Drik Gallery in 1993, which was his first major project. It won him an Aga Khan nomination. Later he designed the Pathshala Guest House. He is currently designing the Drik/Pathshala complex at Panthapath.

Selling Tayyip at Taksim Square

He went to the war in Iraq and returned with love songs. Together we had often walked the back streets of Istanbul. “You’ve come at the perfect time” he said Nilgun and Ozcan prepared the table for yet another home cooked meal. This was a stolen moment, in between Tokyo and Prague. A night halt to see my old friends and breathe the air of Taksim Square.

Hawkers doing brisk trade in cucumber sales which they playfully named "Taiyyap" after the prime minister of Turkey. Taksin Square. Istanbul. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Hawkers doing brisk trade in cucumber sales which they playfully named “Tayyip” after the prime minister of Turkey. Taksim Square. Istanbul. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

As always it was Ozcan I turned to, to make sense of the complex politics that surrounded Turkey. I knew of the trees and how the resistance grew from the small gathering to protect them to the massive collection we were witnessing.  But that didn’t explain it all. My thoughts wandered to Shahbag. To the clusters gathering on the night of February 5th. I had stopped my bicycle on the way back from Shilpakala Academy, where the closing events of Chobi Mela, our festival of photography was taking place. The torchlight processions had been spontaneous, the gatherings organic, but there was hope in the air.

Hope had also been what I had sensed years ago in Cairo, the week before Tahrir Square erupted.  Then too, I was soaking in the insight of streetwise photographers who sensed what was happening underneath it all. Gamal had told me we were sitting on a tinderbox ready to ignite. The following week, back in Dhaka, the shockwaves of that explosion reached us. I pored through the television footage, seeking out my students, by them in their struggle, but worried about their safety. As we sailed down the Rheine during the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Tarek Atia reaffirmed that much of the coverage had been done by my students. Meanwhile things were getting worse in Taksim Square. Cucumber sellers at Taksim Square had renamed their ware the “Tayyip” and were doing brisk trade, but the prime minister upon return had taken a hard line. Social Media was evil, all protesters were foreign agents. I recognized the familiar response. In Bangladesh it had resulted in bloggers being jailed.

CNN footage showed a man being taken away in a police van. Thinning hair, ponytail. Only a back view. It could have been Ozcan. He responded to my hasty email, “That is not me. I’m still free (!)” They had started the ‘standing alone’ campaign. “This kind of resistance is good but always so fragile and open to provocations” he reminded me.

The “Arab Spring” has become the catch all phrase the media has used as a peg to explain these disparate events, but what is it that ties it all together? The death of a fruit seller in angry protest against having been wronged, the ousting of a dictator who had morphed from being the war hero to the tyrant, and the distant cry to ensure no deals were made to pardon war criminals and now the campaign to save a few trees, seemed unconnected. Until one found the underlying thread that joined the dots.

These disparate events, scattered across the wider ‘Muslim’ states,  could only be understood if one walked these public gatherings, breathed the air, soaked in the euphoria. Through all the turmoil, it sang of hope. In Bangladesh, I had seen many more children. Parents wanting to engage them with events of over forty years ago, which had shaped their generation. Both in Shahbagh and in Taksim there were men women, mostly young, in traditional and modern garb. They chanted, sang songs. Volunteers brought in food. Medicine. Spontaneous help groups took care of those in need. This was camaraderie at its best. A people’s movement, separated from conventional party lines. In Bangladesh and Turkey, they protested against popular elected governments, In Egypt and Tunisia, the rulers had long overstayed their tenure. It was a movement for democracy, but not limited to elections. A protester in Taksim, carried a sign reminding us that Hitler too had been democratically elected.

The death of a fruit seller was of course important, but at a national level, especially in an autocratic regime, it wasn’t an issue that could topple a government. Trees being uprooted in the ‘cause’ of development was nothing new. Court rulings stage managed by government was something we were used to. So why his concerted outcry? Wherefrom this solidarity? What led to this outpouring of volunteerism where strangers were being cared for, fed, treated, because they were part of the movement.

Again it was Ozcan who made the connection. “No one was listening, we were never consulted. We never had a say.” He spoke of an aspect of democracy that went beyond elections and popular votes. There was a need to be heard and the people were going to be listened to.

The right of the governed to have a say in the process of governance, was at the core of it all. People were going to have a say. Merely being in power, regardless of the mode of entry, never gave them the right to ride roughshod over the people’s will.

I breathed in the air, sang along with the songs. Danced in unison. Across the globe we were sending out a powerful message. We were going to be heard.

Shahidul Alam

In Love With My Planet

Dominique Browning spoke with Sebasti?o Salgado, the legendary documentary photographer and author, about the inspiration for his forthcoming book??Genesis.? ?The New York Times Sunday Review

Sebasti?o Salgado/Amazonas – Contact Press Images from “Genesis” (Taschen, 2013) Bats on tamarind trees in the Berenty Reserve in Madagascar, 2010.

These beautiful photographs are so different from your previous work. Tell me about that.

Russia, 2006 A tundra valley extends between Tolbachik and Kamen volcanoes in the Kamchatka Peninsula. A line of clouds separates a 2,600-foot crater from the huge base of Kamen volcano, which rises 15,000 feet above sea level.
Russia, 2006 A tundra valley extends between Tolbachik and Kamen volcanoes in the Kamchatka Peninsula. A line of clouds separates a 2,600-foot crater from the huge base of Kamen volcano, which rises 15,000 feet above sea level. Sebasti?o Salgado/Amazonas ? Contact Press Images from ?Genesis? (Taschen, 2013)

They are different, but in the end, they come around to the same place. They have the same message. We are living in a very special moment, when the effect of everything we are doing to our world is accelerating. If we do not pay attention now, we will be facing catastrophe. A big red light should be blinking in all our brains. Continue reading “In Love With My Planet”

Panos Journalism Fellowships

Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

The fellowships are being offered by Panos South Asia as part of a Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) project for enhancing climate change awareness and understanding among journalists in South Asia. Applications are invited from print, television, radio and web journalists writing / reporting on climate change and environment issues from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The fellowships will support writing / reporting stories on climate change from the region. The fellows will also have the opportunity to participate in a training workshop and field trip that will link them with their peers from the neighbouring countries and understand climate-related issues from a South Asian perspective. Applicants should have a strong motivation for working on climate change related issues in South Asia and should have worked on climate-related stories in their media. The application, by e-mail, would need to include the following:
1.?A covering letter, in which the applicant explains his/her motivation for applying for the fellowship, and how he/she would use the fellowship to build on previous experience (two to three pages).
2.?A detailed CV with the names and contact details of two references.
3.?Copies of two stories published on climate change or environment. TV/radio journalists can also provide the link to the programme.
4.?A copy of a scanned letter from the editor of the applicant?s publication, TV or radio channel supporting the application. Please write ?Application for the SACCA Fellowships 2013? in the subject line of your e-mail application.

Applications need to be received by Friday, 8th March 2013 to?
Only successful applicants will be contacted.



Phulbari: Santa visits GCM Resources, but investors are left wanting

By , City Diary Editor Telegraph

Environmental activist Ashley Feils was evicted from the GCM Resources AGM after presenting chairman Gerard Holden with a stocking full of coal

Continue reading “Phulbari: Santa visits GCM Resources, but investors are left wanting”