This text was commissioned by Goethe Institut, Dhaka, as part of the global “DAY-AFTERTHOUGHTS” project
The idea of a "nidarun shob" (exquisite corpse) derives from a surrealist drawing process where each participant draws a different part, to complete a whole that is an assemblage. Mohaiemen asked twenty two people in Dhaka to write three sentences that were the beginnings of their thoughts about the world after Covid-19. The answers were sequenced into a single paragraph; however, this is not one collective answer, but rather a rough polyphony -- the absence of synchronicity between hopes and fears is how we live now. This text was commissioned by Goethe Institut, Dhaka, as part of the global “DAY-AFTERTHOUGHTS” project.
This forced pause in ‘business as usual’ compels me to think, pandemic or not, the entire world should be mandated to pause for a month every year. A yearly paid break to stay home as a reminder of our vulnerability as a weak species; to reconnect with our human values and relationships, to let nature heal and restore balance, and above all to give people time to reorient their life priorities as a transformative process. [Marina Tabassum, architect] We, the indigenous peoples around the world, have been raising these concerns for so long. Finally, in our lifetime, we have seen that despite all kinds of power, the powerful ones have come to our level, their so-called power didn't help them as much as they’d wished it would. We dream: "may-be this" will teach them why equality and equity and justice matter. We desperately hope: "may-be this" will "fix" the world. “Development” means how we learn to live respectfully with nature. [Muktasree Sathi Chakma, researcher] Bangladesh must not compromise on the principle of food sovereignty that is linked to the country’s economic and biological survival. Enabling farmers to participate in the market is positive if it ensures incentives for food production and frees the country from food imports. It is necessary to step back from the high dependence on external inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation, and other mechanical and chemical inputs controlled by multinational companies. Farmers feed the people, not the companies. [Farida Akhter, eco-feminist] The post-Covid-19 management in Bangladesh has largely pivoted on the figure of the “foreign returnee” (bidesh ferot). Generally, a term of prestige and respect, it carries the stigma of importing the infection in apocalyptic times. The migrant worker now makes for an uncanny figure both familiar and foreign where the latter is not, for the time being, a coveted source of cash and commodities. Rumour and hearsay of contagion and collective violence against migrants are part of a new kind of biopolitical regime. [Nusrat Sabina Chowdhury, academic] When the coronavirus outbreak exposed the broken systems of global societies, constantly reminding us of increased xenophobia, unsafe border-movements, health-care malfunctions, and economic antagonism, the art-world might perhaps predict a binary future: one with a rise of nationalism with divisive tendencies of protecting resources for a limited population and favouring cost-cutting, reduced diversity, and virtual infrastructure. The other future would find increased empathy in an interdependent world and protect the diversity of art ecology with more tangible and measurable visions. [Tanzim Wahab, curator] Future building–one way to look at it is that it must push the natural environment toward the core of its existence in a more physical way and not the other way around. We must pursue architecture as a living being and not an object of fancy. Let her moss be beauty on the skin. [Salauddin Ahmed, architect] The Weberian state will re-emerge with a vengeance as a control functionary of global corporatized capital. What free markets couldn’t do for themselves, will be done more swiftly, collectively, and bluntly by the new state -- in the name of the people. Between the sub-optimal social-democratic model, the hybrid regime and authoritarian capitalism – the lure of control will be the key takeaway. [Mahfuz Sadique, journalist] The hope is that although ‘work from home’ assumes having a home and a workplace as ‘standard’, it has also blurred the borders between them, leading us to rethink the idea of the masculine ‘professional’ world in opposition to the feminine ‘home’, opening up possibilities to accommodate non-masculine abilities and situations. This flexibility is one of the lights at the end of the tunnel towards building a more inclusive society with an emphasis on empathy and sustainable coexistence with nature. [Nasrin Khandoker, academic] With positive thoughts in mind, post-Covid 19, I would be elated to find: A better health care system in place; Domestic violence that took place during the crisis not continuing; Human rights, including that of labourers and workers, widely enforced and respected. Lastly, there will be a space for nature and the climate to breathe and benefit, with strong state policies in place. [Ruhi Naz, researcher] There will be no 'post-pandemic' era if we do not delve deeply into some of the root problems that are surfacing: (a) Respect for nature and acceptance of our co-existence with it; (b) Realize that health is the real infrastructure, not labour or the economy or work; (c) Above all, two principles have to be translated into policies (local, national, international), politics (state, movements, allocation of resources), and conduct (social behaviour, diplomacy) [Meghna Guhathakurta, researcher] A spark was created when citizens in lockdown started utilizing their own platforms to gather news and inform others through social networks and personal blogging. Live socio-political discussions through platforms such as Eventbrite, Zoom, and Upstream, along with the old-fashioned YouTube, is a method evolved in Bangladesh of unlocking news and views. [Kazi Jesin, journalist] I feel the given situation of Covid-19, will encourage us to think and work on human rights; the future human rights activism has no meaning unless it is capable of imagining a post-imperial and post-capitalist world to create conditions where universal humanity can be realized concretely on a world scale. [Rezaur Rahman Lenin, researcher] This disease, which many have called “a great equalizer,” is actually an exercise in creating an intricate ladder where everyone is made to recognize how much their lives actually matter. We are continuously reconfiguring our positions on the rung as we hover over our respective rungs, as we wonder: will I get a ventilator if my life is at risk? [Nadine Shaanta Murshid, academic] The world after corona will face a new reality. I'd imagine that art will be darker in the sense that you might see more of death, hysteria, paranoia and isolation in future works. The world may see the revival of Dadaist avant-gardes who will reject the development disguise of a totalitarian world. [Salma Abedin Prithi, artist] The way things are I do not have any optimism as far as Bangladesh is concerned. Seeing as people are stealing rice from the poor and the gap between the haves and have-nots is already enormous, I am apprehensive that if we ever get out of this scourge we will swing back to 'normalcy' and float in the “development paradigm” again. [Perween Hasan, academic] A massive change will come in the art after 'Corona' in the lives of artists. This will be reflected directly in their work. Artists will step out of the white cube and lean towards minimalist materials and practices. [Promotesh Das Pulak, artist] The unfolding of an already visible reorganization of the ways humans live normalized the previously impossible in a very short period of time. Emerging divides between wealthy and poor, especially in terms of healthcare and social security, are yet to reshape as the forces of resistance intensifies. [Sayema Khatun, academic] Beyond the financial impact, it will create physiological effects on individuals. It pushed people to keep things in hold, to be at home. It has asked us to reevaluate our relations with plants, animals, Earth, and all living and nonliving beings. [Munem Wasif, artist] I think there will be great change in our education systems all over the world. It will become more practical and more nature-oriented. It will teach us that human beings are not supreme, but a creature like other species in the world. And we have to work for that change in education. [Bithi Ghosh, cultural activist] Most of the people of the informal sector will listen to these demonstrations tightlipped and will totally ignore them. Who could make these populations aware of the presence of a deadly epidemic? The question of class and the lack of leadership is what Covid-19 is to me. [Reetu Sattar, artist] All forecasts really depend on the trajectory of the disease and the response of countries and the world order to provide cures/vaccines widely. Or will they prefer to ignore the old, poor, voiceless people and let them die – reduce the population? When all this is over, birds will sing more and wildlife breed more – until the planes fly again and the cars emit their ghastly clouds into the air as they did before. [Farida C Khan, academic] Reading the report that “BCG tika” (TB vaccination) may cause lower Covid rates, I instinctively felt on my shoulder for that familiar raised circle – the one I had not thought of in decades. A few hours later, a friend called and said there were conflicting reports – we didn’t have superpowers after all. The need to dive into unfamiliar terrains of science, within a storm of thesis and antithesis, is the way we live, argue, and choose. [Naeem Mohaiemen, filmmaker] The pandemic reaffirmed how dangerously insecure people were in the aggressive and predatory global system. The underlying truth of the prevailing economic unfairness is that the poorest people are the most affected by the Corona disaster. As the fear of further surveillance and authoritarian rule prevails, the fight for a democratic and humanitarian world is inevitable. [Zonayed Saki, politician]