Laser etchings on straw by Shahidul Alam
Gallery Art and Aesthetic presents Kalpana’s Warriors photography exhibition by well known Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist Shahidul Alam in India. The show Kalpana’s Warriors is an extraordinary exhibition of Kalpana and those connected with her on view till March 02, 2016 at Lado Sarai in Delhi.
Kalpana Chakma was a fiery, courageous young indigenous woman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. Twenty years ago, she dared to demand her rights, spoke out against military occupation and harassment by her own country’s army. She had insisted that, as a citizen of a free nation, she too needed to be treated as an equal. Then, in the early hours of 12 June 1996, she was abducted at gunpoint by the Bangladesh military. She never returned. The principal accused, Lieutenant Ferdous, has never been questioned by the police.
Almost two decades later, Shahidul Alam created Kalpana’s Warriors. The exhibition will show images symbolizing the conflict, the Kaptai Lake, which led to the displacement of the hill people, the new homes of Bangali settlers, and an old typewriter from the party meeting room as well as symbols of occupation. The last known photograph of Kalpana Chakma, surrounded by words taken from her diary.
The techniques used in making the central images of the exhibition are inspired by the circumstances of Kalpana’s life and death. Portraits of those who have continued to question the government action were printed on straw mats, which are part of the everyday lives of hill people. In the last conversation between Kalpana and Lieutenant Ferdous, they had argued about the neighbouring villages, which the military had set on fire. Fire was therefore used as the means for creating the images, by burning the straw mats by a computer directed laser beam, etching with flames the images of rebellion.
The show was inaugurated at the Drik Gallery, the only gallery in Bangladesh, prepared to speak out against the military, on the 12th June 2015, nineteen years after her abduction. It was later shown at the Dali Festival in China where it was awarded the “Best Exhibit” prize. It then went to Malta where it was the only exhibition at the Commonwealth People’s Forum, which was attended by delegates from fifty three countries, the President and Prime Minister of Malta, heads and foreign minister of Commonwealth countries.
After Delhi, the show will go to London. Other venues in Argentina, Chile, India, Singapore and other UK locations are currently being scheduled.