Solo exhibition ‘Disappearing Roots’ depicts how much-needed development forced communities out of their homes years ago
“Disappearing Roots,” a solo exhibition by freelance visual artist Samsul Alam Helal, is a story of people forced out of their ancestral land to make way for development.
The exhibit was inaugurated at the National Art Gallery of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Saturday, and will end in Friday.
It showcases artwork that depicts the displacement of native communities of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) due to the construction of the Kaptai Dam in 1962, built for a hydropower project.
The dam was constructed on the Karnaphuli River in Rangamati, creating a huge reservoir known as the Kaptai Lake. As a result, thousands of native families, the majority of whom were Chakmas, were displaced from their own homes.
In fact, the old Rangamati town, as well as the original palace of the Chakma king, is submerged in the reservoir.
The artist used sound, photographs, 3D models and video clips in the exhibition to capture the remaining traces of an ancient way of life in the CHT.
Helal, a Dhaka-based visual artist who studied photography at Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, loves to make fiction to question reality. His primary interests lie in socio-cultural and political issues, but he also aims to go beyond these issues in his artwork. He explores identity, dreams and longings, and plays with the psychological realm of these issues to understand the deeper marks they create.
Helal has earned many accolades for his work, including the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in 2016. He also participated in various group shows, such as Kunsthalle Zurich, Speak Local 2017, Colombo Art Biennale 2016, Dhaka Art Summit 2016, Chobi Mela Photo Festival 2012, Bronx Museum New York 2015, and many others.
He was also one of the visiting artists in a fellowship program at Harvard University in 2018.