Photos: Shahidul Alam
Text: Art and Aesthetic
Kalpana Chakma had the audacity to speak out against military occupation in her country, Bangladesh. In the early hours of the morning of 12 June 1996, she was abducted at gunpoint. The police have never questioned the principal accused, Lieutenant Ferdous. The military, it conveniently appears, has no record of him. He too has “disappeared”. Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist Shahidul Alam and his team have been working for several years to create pressure on the Bangladesh government to complete the investigation, which has dragged on for many years.
This exhibition is the third in a series undertaken by Alam and part of Drik’s “No More” campaign, which challenges the impunity of powerful entities in the country as they get away with blatant abuse. The campaign started with the ground-breaking exhibition Crossfire which looked at extrajudicial killings and has also included exhibitions on Bangladeshi garment factory disasters. The Bangladesh government closed down the Crossfire show using riot police.
The techniques used in making the central images of the exhibition are inspired by the circumstances of Kalpana’s life and death. Portraits of those who have continued to question the government’s role in this have been printed on straw mats, which are part of everyday lives of the hill people. In the last conversation between Kalpana and Lieutenant Ferdous, they had argued about the neighbouring villages, which the military had set on fire. Fire was therefore used as the means for creating the images, by burning the straw mats by a computer-directed laser beam, etching with flames the images of rebellion.
Shahidul Alam is a Bangladeshi photographer and writer. Kalpana’s Warriors is on till 5 March 2016 at the Art and Aesthetic
gallery in Lado Sarai, Delhi.