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Rohingya Exhibition: Fabienne Francotte’s exhibition ‘Being The Other’ begins in Dhaka

  • Published at 09:42 am March 20th, 2019
Rohingya
File photo of Rohingya refugees walk towards a refugee camp after crossing the Myanmar-Bnagladesh border Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Arranged in three parts, the exhibition speaks in many ways about the latent trauma of the Rohingyas, which is carried precariously between the need to cope, to acknowledge and to persevere

How do we speak about something we cannot see? Fabienne Francotte’s exhibition, titled "Being the Other," is concerned with giving this question a form. 

Francotte's work is on view together with the Rohingyas' artwork at the Edge Gallery in Gulshan 2, since yesterday.

The exhibition will continue at the Nalinikanta Vattashali Hall of the National Museum in Shahbagh from March 23 to 30.

Arranged in three parts, the exhibition speaks in many ways about the latent trauma of the Rohingyas, which is carried precariously between the need to cope, to acknowledge and to persevere.

This series of work in the exhibition maps junctures of shared trauma, communicated through wordless intimacies that the artist was invited into, while working with the Rohingya community of refugees in Bangladesh.

The series of prayer mats laden with traces of their owners explores the tangled interactions between the Rohingya men and their relationship to the divine. 

Treasured and carried with them over the course of their migration, Francotte imagines these mats shifting into emblematic objects upon which both dispossession and hope are located. For the men, spirituality becomes a place of solace, and of longing, while simultaneously being a means of re-leveraging a lost power within their everyday lives.

The series of larger paintings follows traces of bodies once whole, now contorted by memory, violence and silence. The lines that contour the bodies disappear at moments into the background, while elements such as the face of a Myanmar soldier, a dress once worn, a bottle of perfume and a pair of shoes, to name a few, emerge authoritatively on the canvas.

All of them are stand-ins for a history that cannot be known. 

The final set of pieces features a collection of portraits stitched together – a reconstructed composite of “selfies” taken by the young girls in the community. Rendered on brightly adorned plastic table cloths, these images reflect on the intimacies and politics of friendship and solidarity and their potential as powerful forces of resistance. The manner in which these faces overlap say: "Stand behind me, I will protect you,” while another says: "If you can't speak, I will speak!" and together they form a community of balance and support. Adorned in makeup and posing for photographs, the Rohingya girls hold each other while looking firmly forward.

While an initial reading of the work may risk engendering associations of loneliness, abuse and suffering, the artist encourages sustained looking, "especially toward the images, that a viewer may find hard to take in,” Francotte said. In suggesting this perhaps Francotte is also alluding to a way we might see and acknowledge pain. Francotte asked the viewers of the exhibition "to not just see the drama of the surface, but move beyond it into the container of the soul."