Six to see at Chobi Mela 2019

The Dhaka photo festival's 10th edition aims to increase visibility of photography from Asia, Latin America, and more.

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Featuring 44 artists and over 30 exhibitions, this year’s edition of Chobi Mela illustrates diverse histories across the world, from Bangladesh to Nicaragua. Now in its 10th year, the festival looks to increase accessibility and promote greater public participation - for example, with mobile exhibitions on rickshaws that cycle around the city.

Following the festival’s founder, photographer human rights activist Shahidul Alam’s imprisonment last year, for speaking out against the Bangladeshi government’s violent treatment of student protesters, Chobi Mela - now more than ever - represents the importance of the photographic medium for freedom of expression and demographic inclusivity.

We picked out six artists to look out for at the fair…

Live, Love, Refugee , Omar Imam

Live, Love, Refugee, Omar Imam

1. Omar Imam’s work challenges representations of Syrian refugees as he meets with them in refugee camps throughout Lebanon. The Damascus-born photographer interviews individuals about their dreams and recreates them in his work to demonstrate the array of emotions which result from being separated from home. Imam aims to render these individuals complicated humans, rather than mere statistics or victims.

Life Cycle of Venus , Habiba Nowrose

Life Cycle of Venus, Habiba Nowrose

2. Bangladeshi photographer Habiba Nowrose explores how gender expectations force women to suppress trauma. The fabric used in her photos is symbolic of this oppression, forcing each subject to lose their individual story and conform to a collective narrative.

Red Utopia , Jan Banning

Red Utopia, Jan Banning

3. Dutch photographer Jan Banning explores the remains of communism a century after the Russian Revolution. His project Red Utopia exposes the interiors of party offices and their symbolism in non-communist countries like Italy, India, Nepal, Portugal, and Russia.

Wakefulness and the Dream State: a Self-Study , Umrao Singh

Wakefulness and the Dream State: a Self-Study, Umrao Singh

4. Considered one of India’s pioneers of photography, Umrao Singh began taking photos the early 1890s. His work is about observing the self and others, exploring how one receives information that is both subjective and objective. The photographer is the father of renowned artist Amrita Sher-Gil.

Susan Meiselas,  Nicaragua in Time

Susan Meiselas, Nicaragua in Time

5. This work by the American documentary photographer Susan Meiselas portrays the the 1970s Nicaraguan revolution. Meiselas spent ten years in Nicaragua, arriving before the insurrection in 1978, documenting the evocation of Somoza regime which led to popular resistence, until the Sandinista revolution in 1979.

From the series  Rashid Talukder (1939-2011): A Life’s Work  by Rashid Talukder

From the series Rashid Talukder (1939-2011): A Life’s Work by Rashid Talukder

6. Bangladeshi photographer Rashid Talukder’s work conveys invaluable visual history leading up to Bangladeshi independence, from the 1950’s Bengali language movement to the 1971 war with then Western Pakistan. The pictured work shows a mutilated head in the Rayer Bazar brick field, where the murders of several Bangladeshi intellectuals were carried out by the Pakistani army.

Chobi Mela’s mobile exhibition, cycling on rickshaws past Parliament House

Chobi Mela’s mobile exhibition, cycling on rickshaws past Parliament House


Olivia Burt