New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) Segments of a photographic archive — the documentation of the volatile Bangladesh of early 1990s by photojournalist Shahidul Alam, now a global figure emerging as a contemporary fierce voice for free speech — are on view from Friday here, among other exhibits, and provide continuity to narratives of struggle, place and identity.
Alam is one of the artists whose works are shown in “(Dis)Place”, a group exhibition showcasing works of 10 artists and one research collective from Bangladesh. It opened at the Korean Culture Centre (KCC) here and is co-curated by Tanzim Wahab and Hadrien Diez — recipients of the FICA South Asia grant for exhibition-making.
Shown as a series of contact sheets from 1990-97, Alam’s on-view works are a portion of his documentation of various protest movements in Dhaka in the 1980s and 1990s — “a period during which activists of all stripes were taking to the streets to ask for political reform and democracy”.
“Bangladesh had a democratic struggle for a long time after its independence in 1971. In early 1990s, when we had this autocratic regime, we had many democratic movements.
“Shahidul was one of the activists who documented this in the streets. Then we had our first election and our first voting. There’s a feeling of continuance now. Things change, but things never change,” curator Tanzim Wahab, who co-curates annual photography festival ‘Chobi Mela’ with Alam, told IANS.
Alam was recently released after spending over 100 days in prison; he was arrested for speaking against the government on television. His arrest triggered strong reactions across the globe.
The curatorial note to the show reiterates that the series on display must “not be read as a single, unified narrative: they illustrate a multi-faceted struggle that carries on today, as recent events in Bangladesh remind”.
“The current times are giving us challenges to find a language about issues. But artists are one of the few communities who are innovative and are finding their own expression. Art itself is changing in the choice of media and themes. The ‘criticality’ is there but the form is changing,” Wahab said.
“The art community is always seeing opportunity even in crisis, and how you grow out of it, rather than shrink. It (Shahidul’s) was a beautiful and positive example,” curator Diez added.
Alam’s works are curated in line with the larger focus on the exhibition, which touches upon topics “as urgent to Bangladesh as they are to world”: shifting environments, borders and migration, economic or cultural appropriation.
Through the exhibits, “(Dis)Place” delves further into notions of emotional landscapes, affective histories, and place(s) ownership vis-a-vis utopian sensibilities, and ambitions to speak of a “local” that echoes the world as a whole.
On view are works by Tayeba Begum Lipi, Ronni Ahmmed, Najmun Nahar Keya, Afsana Sharmin Zhumpa, Shimul Saha, Zihan Karim, Sarker Protick, Sayed Asif Mahmud, Md Shamsul Arifin and Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements.
The exhibition is open for public viewing till February 22, 2019.