Under the patronage of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and organised by Pathshala and Drik, the ninth edition of Chobi Mela photography festival began yesterday at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. The two week-long event, set to go on until February 16, was inaugurated through a ceremony held at the National Theatre Hall Auditorium, of Shilpakala.
At the opening ceremony, Asaduzzaman Noor, the minister for Cultural Affairs was present as the chief guest. The program was presided over by Liaquat Ali Lucky, director general of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Liz Wells, a professor at Plymouth University in UK, and Iranian photographer Hengameh Golestan were present as special guests. The festival director Dr Shahidul Alam gave the welcome speech.
Dr Alam welcomed the audience present at the auditorium and people joining in from elsewhere, as the event was being live streamed on the internet. After thanking the foreign guests for travelling to Bangladesh, Dr Alam conveyed his gratitude to Noam Chomsky and Omar Barghouti for their relentless “defiance.” Emphasising on the need for “speaking truth to power” and warning about being too close to the “bastions of power” he elaborated on how the present time is a particularly important time for artists to “question.” Dr Alam then thanked the minister for Cultural Affairs Asaduzzaman Noor for his support saying that the minister “singularly played a very important role for allowing this [festival] to happen.”
[caption id="attachment_44340" align="alignnone" width="809"]
PHOTOS: MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU[/caption]
Asaduzzaman Noor, minister for Cultural Affairs started his speech joking about how he often ends up being the “chief guest” only because the finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith often cancels his attendance for various reasons. On a serious note, Noor stressed on the importance of liberal arts and humanities, saying that studying only for certificates and not seeking real knowledge makes people “robots.” And these robot brains are vulnerable to dangerous ideologies, he added. He also said that the lack of culture is culpable for an incident like Holey Artisan in this country, remarking that the “dark forces” propelling the atrocities in terrorists are monsters. He also said, “We want to make a humanistic society, not a society of monsters,” and that, the fight of our time was the fight between “forty seven and seventy one,” referring to the partition of India into Pakistan in 1947, and Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971, where the country separated from Pakistan. He said that losing this fight is not an option.
Hengameh Golestan thanked the organisers for inviting her. Golestan said that she always viewed photography as a form of communication and hence she uses her photography to converse with the world. She said that even though she came to the festival as a photographer, she also came as a fan of photography.
Professor Liz Wells started her speech saying that she had never seen such a “noisy, exuberant, and exciting” rally to celebrate photography, referring to the rally prior to the ceremony that started from the Press Club and walked to the National Theatre Hall Auditorium, at Shilpakala. She thanked all the organisers for inviting her saying that the event is “extraordinary.” She said that photography helps us see things differently and it is important to see things differently now.
[caption id="attachment_44341" align="alignnone" width="694"]
PHOTOS: MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU[/caption]
The director general of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Liaquat Ali Lucky said that he feels proud to be able to host the event. Lucky added that Shilpakala recently organised the 17 Asian Biannale, and Dhaka Art Summit was also hosted at the venue. He said that the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman founded Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in 1974 and at present, the dream of Bangabandhu is being realised through the direction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The director general informed the audience that Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy has opened a photography department for the first time.
Lifetime Achievement Awards were given to Syeeda Khanum and Nasir Ali Mamun. Known as the first female photographer of Bangladesh, Syeeda Khanum is known for her notable photographs of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Liberation War. Speaking to the audience, Khanum said that she considers this award as a tremendous honour. Nasir Ali Mamun expressed his gratitude to Chobi Mela. He also expressed his gratitude for his predecessors who paved the way for Bangladeshi photographers. He added that he is forever indebted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, without whom and Bangladesh, all of this would not have been possible.