Chol arranges a fashion photography exhibition on the daily struggles of women and the transgender community
The male gaze is a common enemy for people of - as the world would have you believe - the "weaker" genders; one that even years of practise doesn't truly prepare us for. It's uncomfortable, humiliating, and never, ever welcome. One of the many battles of daily life in the subcontinent, and perhaps the whole world, the discomfort of the judgement women and the transgender people receive for how they choose to dress or carry themselves is a generally overlooked, yet highly daunting, experience. It is becoming increasingly more vital to address this very phenomenon, and what better way to raise awareness than carefully crafted visual art?
A fashion photography exhibition by Chol approaching this very issue kicked off on February 12 at the Paraa studio located at Niketon, Dhaka. Featuring designs by Shama Kun, and photographs and films led by Tarannum Ali, Zaqiul Deep, and their teams in Paraa, the exhibition titled 'It's Not My Clothing, It's Your Eyes!' aims to showcase an alternate reality, where women and trans people are able to dress and express themselves however they desire, free of all judgements and harassment. Through creative visuals and determination to put the message across, the Paraa team has curated this exhibition highlighting the striking differences between how women and trans people wish to dress, live, and be, and the way societal norms force them to be instead. Chol's campaign aims to illustrate how liberated people could be without the external pressures and judgement of the outside world.
At the opening ceremony, a talk was hosted by Prothom Alo journalist Saiful Rahman, with photographer and filmmaker Tarannum Ali Nibir, designer Shama Kun and the models of the campaign discussing their vision and experiences. Tarannum Nibir explained how the idea of a fashion campaign revolving around the judgemental male gaze came to be. She mentioned her aim to establish social justice in different communities, and how a person's clothing garnering negative responses influences her work.
Designer Shama Kun, on the other hand, expressed her passion for ethical and slow fashion, and how it can have a positive impact on how we operate. In addition, the models relived the experiences of doing a blouse shoot at the Mohakhali bus terminal and discussed their perspectives on what it's like to challenge the male gaze on a daily. Transgender model Tasnuva Anan along with Joya Sikder expressed how difficult it is at times to be themselves, and the struggles of tackling the lack of respect women, and especially trans women, receive from the masses. Finally, the artisans were given the floor to speak about the process of making zero waste wearables.
The session wrapped up with this screening of a documentary on the issue by Tarannum Nibir.
Along with photographs of the campaign, the exhibition also houses an interactive booth, where visitors can share their experiences in dealing with the male gaze and the judgements that come with it. These responses are documented and will be published as part of the campaign to further demonstrate the detrimental effects of such practices on women and the transgender community, and the urgency with which changes need to be made.
The exhibition will be open to visitors till the end of the month, and another talk will be held on Saturday, February 20, from 3 to 7 pm.
Chol is a platform for designers and artisans to think beyond the constraints of ‘fast fashion’. Chol understands the need to preserve and push cultural boundaries.
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