Graciela Iturbide in Bangladesh

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All Eyes On Dhaka

Chobi Mela VII begins

Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide (centre) formally inaugurates the festival (top). The discussion panel featuring representatives from six continents (bottom). Photo Courtesy: Chobi Mela
Jamil Mahmud

The biannual international festival of photography, Chobi Mela VII, began with several exhibitions at the National Art Gallery of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) in Dhaka on January 25. The fortnight-long festival is featuring 35 exhibitions of photographers from 24 countries, including seven from Bangladesh. Apart from the exhibitions, the festival also includes artist's talk, book launch, mobile exhibition, workshops and seminars.

Followed by a procession that started from the National Museum premises, the opening ceremony was held at the newly built auditorium of BSA's National Art Gallery.

Veteran Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide inaugurated the festival, claiming it a “special honour” for her.

Iturbide received the Lifetime Achievement Award for this year. The Lifetime Achievement Award was also conferred (posthumous) on the recently deceased Bangladeshi photographer Bijon Sarkar.

Terming Bijon Sarkar as “one of the unsung heroes of the photography movement in Bangladesh” and Iturbide as “one of the most influential photographers of our time”, Shahidul Alam, director of the festival, felt fortunate to be able to honour them.

Sarkar's work during the 1960s was remarkable not only for its nature but also the fact that the photographer worked in isolation in a medium that was yet to become popular in the country. His widow Mira Sarkar received the award.

Iturbide's photographs feature a strong combination of culture, rituals and everyday life in her native land. Her bold works try to explore relationships between people and nature.

Her solo exhibition, “Naturata”, being held at the Alliance Francaise de Dhaka (in Dhanmondi), as part of the festival, demonstrates Iturbide's signature style.

Representative photographers from six different continents -- Nii Obodai (Ghana), Pablo Bartholomew (India), Jody Haines (Australia), Ruth Eichhorn (Germany), Graciela Iturbide (Mexico) and Patrick Witty (USA) -- joined Shahidul Alam in a panel discussion. They talked about the ongoing trends in, the future and prospects of global photography and photojournalism.

Screening of a film on previous instalments of Chobi Mela, and video presentations from this year's festival were also part of the opening ceremony. But the main attractions were seemingly the exhibitions. Soon after the inaugural, people thronged the exhibitions at National Art Gallery.

“Fragility” is the theme of this year's festival and it was picked up from an online poll. According to the festival director, providing participating photographers a chance to focus on socio-political issues has always been the main concern of this international event.

The festival will continue till February 7. Chobi Mela was born in Bangladesh and has been held since 1997.

Text and image courtesy of  The Daily Star.