Photography in Bangladesh: a medium on the move

F’ted internationally, the country’s photographers have struggled for status at home. Could that be about to change?

Water reservoir is for the Komolapur Railway station. It’s the main station in Bangladesh. Dhaka.

From the series “Railway Longings” (2011-2015) by Rasel Chowdhury

The eerie moonscape of Munem Wasif’s new photographic series, “Land of Undefined Territory”, appears empty. On closer inspection, it reveals the scars of industrial activity, from vehicle tracks to stone crushing. The sense of menace and alienation is compounded by a three-channel video with a grating soundtrack.
These digital black-and-white shots were taken along an indefinite border between Bangladesh and India, disputed land that is now home to unregulated mining but which also soaked up the blood of past upheavals, from the first, temporary partition of Bengal under the viceroy in 1905, to Partition in 1947 and the Liberation war of 1971. Ostensible documentary veers into questioning in Wasif’s deeply unsettling yet distanced probing of history, territory, ownership and exploitation. Continue reading “Photography in Bangladesh: a medium on the move”

Shumon Ahmed, Home Land

Art and Deal. Issue 53, Nov 12. Page 43

“Shumon Ahmed uses photography to record a new history whilst rewriting
its past, his multiple pictures of Bangladesh, show the angst, isolation and
sprawl of the (modern) metropolis in a manner (fitting) of Woody Allen?s
(cinematic) images of New York City” – Anwar Akhtar

Photographer Shumon Ahmed lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh; a country plagued by extreme weather conditions but equally resourced by fertile land. Since a boy, Ahmed has watched his mother country become something all its own.? Despite the jarring climatic and agricultural fluxes, aesthetics has come to the fore, and the Bangladeshi contemporary art scene reflects a more positive potential for the county?s inherent cultural and social structures; culminating in the inaugural Dhaka Art Summit 2012 in April this year . Continue reading “Shumon Ahmed, Home Land”

Land of the Free

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The?Russian, Eastern & Oriental Fine Art Fair, an annual summer event in London?s Mayfair, displays fine art spanning the last 1,000 years. This year, works from Iran, India, China, Korea and Vietnam will be on display for the first time.

Among the more striking contemporary works is a set of photographs by Dhaka-born?Shumon Ahmed. Ironically entitled Land of the Free, it comprises seven images detailing the experience of Mubarak Hussain, the only Bangladeshi to have returned from Guantanamo Bay.

The fair takes place on June 9-12 at the?Park Lane Hotel. All images copyright of Shumon Ahmed, courtesy of the fair.

The story of Guantanamo Bay?s prison camp is as a horrifying one. In this place of torture, people became guinea pigs in a vast experiment of methods to crack the human soul. Mubarak Hussain Bin Abul Hashem is the only Bangladeshi to have returned from Guantanamo, after five years of imprisonment. ??Shumon Ahmed

Whilst under US army custody, Mubarak was known as ?Enemy Combatant Number 151?. ??Shumon Ahmed

Mubarak still remembers how the US army brutalised him with the aid of an attack dog over and over again, while his hands were chained behind his back. : ??Shumon Ahmed

Deeply traumatised from his experience in Guantanamo, Mubarak kept silent most of the time after returning home; to help him resettle into a normal life his family insisted he marry. He became the father of a baby girl in 2008. ??Shumon Ahmed

There have been allegations of torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging and religious persecution committed by U.S. forces at Guant?namo Bay. Former Guant?namo detainee Mubarak Hussain was freed without charge on December 17, 2006, after five years internment. Mubarak has claimed that he was the victim of repeated torture while he was in Guantanamo Bay. ??Shumon Ahmed

The abuse was ?systematic?, with frequent beatings, choking, and sleep deprivation for days on end. Religious humiliation was also routine. ??Shumon Ahmed

?On 17th of December, 2006, a special US Air Force plane flew Mubarak back to Bangladesh after failing to get any evidence of his alleged terror links. Bringing the story of his shattered past into life visually for the first time was an extremely difficult yet critical challenge for me. But it was crucial to vividly exhibit the human cost of the ?Land of the Free?s? ill-conceived and violently executed ?War on Terror?. Which, like for so many others, changed the life of a Bangladeshi named Mubarak Hussain forever.? ??Shumon Ahmed