Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Honorable Prime Minister
Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Prime Minister’s Office. Old Sangsad Bhaban
Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215, Bangladesh
My name is Raghu Rai. I have been honored by you in 2012 as friends of Bangladesh Liberation War who photographed the Bangladesh war for freedom by Mukti Bahini supported by your neighbors and friends to transform east Pakistan into an independent nation today known as Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a country of poets, writers, musicians and some of them migrated to India during the partition. Our bond is deep not only culturally but spiritually as well.
Madam Prime minister, you are the daughter of great revolutionary Sheikh Mujibur Rehman who rose against the repressive and torturous regime of Pakistani generals—and in return the generals decided to teach Bangladeshis a lesson. Thus the nation rose against Pakistan under the leadership of Sheikh Sahib and this is how Bangladesh came into being. So let’s not teach our boys a lesson.
Hon’ble Madam, Shahidul Alam founder of DRIK and Pathshala has been a great admirer of Sheikh Sahib, and I have had the privilege of knowing him as a close friend for the last 3 decades. I have no doubt in my mind that Shahidul is one of those rare breeds committed to truth and honesty, and can die for his country. It seems last night Shahidul was picked up by 20-30 men from detective branch of police, and was tortured and couldn’t walk on his feet. My heart bleeds for that. Continue reading “Raghu Rai’s Open Letter to Sheikh Hasina”
Foreword by Shahidul Alam
?Kill three million of them,? said President Yahya Khan at the February conference (of the generals), ?and the rest will eat out of our hands.?
The executioners stood on the pier, shooting down at the compact bunches of prisoners wading in the water. There were screams in the hot night air, and then silence. (Payne, Massacre [Macmillan, 1973], p. 50, p 55.)
There were to be no witnesses to the massacre. The foreign journalists had all been sent back. The media had been taken over.. Those of us in East Pakistan, Bangalis, Paharis, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, were all labeled Kafirs. The genocide was to be presented as a holy war. They expected no resistance to ?Operation Searchlight? They couldn?t have been more wrong. The brutality was unparalleled, but so was the resistance. Continue reading “The price of freedom. Foreword”
THE PRICE OF Freedom?Raghu Rai Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts and Indira Gandhi Cultural Center, High Commission of India, Dhaka, invite?you to the inauguration of a ten-day long photography exhibition by internationally renowned Indian?photographer Raghu Rai titled Bangladesh: The Price of Freedom on 7 December 2012, Friday, at?5:45pm. The exhibition contains photographs taken during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.?Md. Abdul Hamid Advocate. Honorable Speaker, Bangladesh Parliament, will grace the occasion as the?Chief Guest and inaugurate the exhibition HE Mr. Pankaj Saran, High Commissioner of India to?Bangladesh, and Mr. Mofidul Hoque, Trustee, Bangladesh Liberation War Museum, will be present?as Special Guests. Mr. Raghu Rai will speak on the occasion
-Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts -Indira Gandhi Cultural Center, High Commission of India, Dhaka
Inaugural ceremony: Friday, 5:45 pm, December 2012
Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts
House 42, Road 16 (new), 27 (old) Sheikh Kamal Sarani, Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209
The exhibition can be viewed until 16 December 2012, daily from 12 pm to 8pm
I regard?My Journey as a Witness?by?Shahidul Alam?as the most remarkable book by a single photographer since a messenger brought me a first copy of The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1952. It is not that the two books should be compared, although they are approximately the same weight.
If Shahidul’s book becomes as influential as has Cartier-Bresson’s, it will be for an entirely different reason. For me The Decisive Moment was the book that first articulated the philosophy of photojournalism. It was also notable in that it gave equal play to photographs of East and West. Its images have stood the test of time.
My Journey as a Witness is entirely different. It is an angry book, deliberately provocative. It too has many beautiful, meaningful images, but it is a book that must be read. It is a book that will break your heart.
Shahidul Alam was educated in the West, but he is a man of the East. As a teenager he witnessed the war that gave birth to his country, Bangladesh, in 1971. This book is a kind of diary of his career, which began briefly in London but now embraces the world.
His passion is to show ordinary people as they truly live and work, not as they are seen by what he calls the “dominant cultures” of the West.
Alam thinks most people in the world are being short-changed. He thinks photojournalists can do something about that. To assist them he has created an agency called Drik (Vision) in Bangladesh; a website, banglarights.com; and a brand, MajorityWorld.com. He also founded Pathshala, the first South Asian school of photography, which sponsors biennial international meetings, ? la Perpignan.
Alam’s ambition is not only to transform photography but to transform the world. He passionately argues for true world government, government by the majority of all peoples, not just dominance of the superpowers
I happen to agree with much if not most of what he says. Read the book and decide for yourself. John G. Morris:?Journalist?John Godfrey Morris?(1916) has spent a lifetime editing photographs for magazines and newspapers, working with hundreds of photographers, among them the great names of 20th century photography. My Journey as a Witness – Shahidul Alam
Edited by Rosa Maria Falvo
Introduction by Sebasti?o Salgado
and Preface by Raghu Rai
Hardcover – 224 pages
Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 1 x 11.3 inches
The Bangladeshi War of Liberation, like all other wars, has a contested history. The number killed, the number raped, the number displaced, are all figures that change depending upon who tells the story.
But in our attempt to be on the ?right side? of history, we often forget those who ended up on the wrong side. Those who have gone, those who were permanently scarred, mentally, physically, socially, don?t really care about our statistics. The eyes that stare into empty space, knowing not what they are searching, the frail legs, numbed by fatigue, drained by exhaustion, yet willed on by desperation, the wrinkled hands, seeking a familiar touch, a momentary shelter, longing for rest, do not care about the realpolitik of posturing superpowers.
A retrospective publication dedicated to the work of renowned Bangladeshi photojournalist and social activist Shahidul Alam has been published by Skira. We have a copy of the book to give away to one lucky reader. Head on down past the fascinating opening essay from the book excerpted below, put together by curator and writer Rosa Maria Falvo, to find out how to win!
Shahidul Alam, ‘Ilish fishing’. Image from book. ? Shahidul Alam.
Impossible is nothing
Few Westerners have any understanding of Bangladesh?s complicated history or even know exactly where it is on a map. And fewer still have experienced what this country has to offer. I first went there in 2008, travelling to Dhaka from Kolkata by bus across the Indian-Bangladeshi border at Benapole, and after our first ?luxury? bus ripped a hole in its undercarriage as the driver forced the ferry ramp prematurely, we jumped onto another making its way into the belly of a night ferry, crossing the Padma (?lotus?) River, the main channel of the great Ganges (Ganga) River originating in the Himalayas. Immediately surrounded by a smiling and curious crowd, it felt exhilarating to be suddenly thrust into the enduring dynamism that is daily life in Bangladesh. Washing over my vague but cemented notions of disaster and poverty, the reality for me was inspiring, within the chaos and calm combined. I have since travelled southwards to Chittagong?s great seaport, and then north into Bogra, through Dinajpur, visiting temples and monasteries, onto Rangpur, stopping for tea with indigo farmers, heading west to Thakurgaon, giving way to elephants on the village roads, and across India on our way to Biratnagar, Nepal. Increasingly, I am struck by the pervading ?impossible is nothing? approach to life here, and by the magnanimity of the people of Bangladesh.
We met a cheeky bearded man on a bicycle, busily navigating his schedule in a city that relentlessly thwarts any plans one might have to move promptly from A to B. To describe Dhaka?s serious traffic problems is to begin with sheer understatement, and yet the locals carry on undeterred. We walked into his photo agency full of energetic youth, with an obvious respect for their teacher, in positions of responsibility that showed they belong.
Working alongside Shahidul Alam is an extraordinary experience. There is no self-righteous arrogance, impatient hustling, or delusions of grandeur. Here is a true humanitarian; honest, hard-working, and committed to the cause; a talented man who is loved by many in a social, political and environmental system that is bursting at the seams; one that needs overhauling; and one he has been intimately engaged with for over thirty years. In the most unlikely conditions, with the odds (and sometimes the guns) pointed squarely against him, he manages to get the job done with a centeredness that inspires others to do the same. And what exactly is that job? Born from a simple premise and pitted against a seemingly impossible challenge, he dares to turn perceptions around and broaden our thinking, to rebalance the dynamics of communicative power, to redistribute imagery that impacts contemporary culture, and to respect geographic diversification. Not one to shy from the harshest realities in his country, which are best understood by those living them, Alam is educating for a new vision, which enlightened photography aspires to convey. If we consider the classic vehicles of social control, what happens when multinationals and politicians representing eight countries monopolise a world whose ?majority? often stands like an elephant tied to a rope? This majority will inevitably find its strength and something practical and peaceful can be done to help recognise it.
New Art Exchange and Aicon Gallery present
Raghu Rai’s Invocation to India
Curated by Saleem Arif Quadri MBE
Exhibition dates: 29 January – 30 April 2011
Private View: Friday 28 January, 6 – 9pm
Also taking place on the night: In Conversation with Niru Ratnam and Saleem Arif Quadri, 8pm
Rai?s work proclaims the rich diversity of contemporary India, with its juxtapositions of ancient and modern, where the people are the landscape. He photographs an India teeming with colour, history, beauty and brilliance whilst uncovering a continent’s domestic rituals with these striking images of Indian street life, festivals and the changing seasons.
“Over the centuries, so much has melded into India that it’s not really one country, and it’s not one culture. It is crowded with crosscurrents of many religions, beliefs, cultures and their practices that may appear incongruous. But India keeps alive the inner spirit of her own civilization with all its contradictions. Here, several centuries have learnt to live side by side at the same time. And a good photograph is a lasting witness to that, as photography is a history of our times: being a multi-lingual, multi- cultured and multi- religious society, the images must speak these complexities through a multi-layered experience.” – Raghu Rai
Rai, who was born in present-day Pakistani in 1942, came to India during Partition and has been witness to some of the most significant events in his country’s recent history. He was one of the first photographers on the scene after the 1984 Bhopal industrial disaster and has produced acclaimed documentary series on Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In 1977 Henri Cartier-Bresson saw his work at an exhibition in Paris, and recommended him to become a member of Magnum Photo Agency. Since then Rai has taken India as his canvas and produced works that he simply describes as slicing out spaces and moments in front of him. Rai has taken the documentary form associated with Cartier-Bresson and the Magnum tradition and pushed it in a way that responds to the specificities of India. He captures the ways in which the past co-exists with the present in India, and on a more subtle level, the visual rhymes and congruities between the different components in his works. His works attest to a multi-layered reality, where people, objects, animals and buildings jostle with each other, where people’s own personal space is overlaid and invaded by each other’s space.
Other major books include projects on the Taj Mahal, Tibet, Sikhs, Dreams of India, Tibet and his recent book on Indian Musicians (2010). A regular contributor to a huge range of international journals and British broadsheets, from ’90 to ’97 Rai judged the World Press Photo Awards.
With nearly 50 years of excellence and an extraordinary contribution to world photography and Indian photography in particular, in honour of his extensive photographic oeuvre and recognition of his commitment to excellence, in 1971 Rai was awarded one of India’s highest civilian accolades – the Padma Shri.
As part of Format International Photography Festival 2011
Raghu Rai has taught at Pathshala and has been a featured artist at Chobi Mela. Raghu’s exhibition at Drik’s 20th anniversary