The atmosphere was electric at that point. No one moved even though the show had ended
The six-day exhibition “A Struggle for Democracy: A Photo Journey by Shahidul Alam” concluded on Monday, at the Drik Gallery, Dhanmondi. Shahidul Alam’s partner, Rehnuma Ahmed, was present at the closing ceremony, surrounded by a large crowd of well-wishers of the photographer.
The event started with a chorus of the Tagore song “Anondoloke Mongolaloke.” The audience, sitting on the floor in a cosy environment, sang in unison. Then one by one, artists sang and recited poetry. The atmosphere at the gallery was cheerful at times and sombre at others.
The ceremony ended with a grim performance art where a man, whose entire face had been taped shut, circled a camera that had been hung from the ceiling. Towards the end of the performance, he let out scores of agonizing screams and gave each audience member a life size cut out of Shahidul Alam’s face. He held one to his face and chanted: “I am Shahidul. We are Shahidul. We are Bangladesh.”
The atmosphere was electric at that point. No one moved even though the show had ended.
The exhibition had many memorable aspects apart from the closing ceremony. Other than the photographs, books and videos of the maestro were also exhibited. The walls bore Shahidul Alam’s quotes bearing testimony to the deep philosophy behind the extraordinary captures.
A photograph depicting a man staring at someone else’s television screen from afar, was accompanied by his quote: “My real inspiration is the average Bangladeshi. I find the rickshawallah who ride streets of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi migrant worker, garment worker, and the farmer in the field, great sources of inspiration. The minute we recognize that we are as privileged as we are and remember who we owe this privilege to, the ownership is upon us to take on these risks, to take on these challenges, and ensure that we in some way repay the debt.”
Even though the exhibition had to come to an end, his works and teachings will remain a source of inspiration for generations to come.