NEPN and Breeze Creatives will present Kalpana’s Warriors, a photographic exhibition by leading international photographer Shahidul Alam, as part of Freedom City 2017.
Kalpana Chakma was a vocal and charismatic leader who campaigned for the rights of indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts area of Bangladesh. She was abducted from her home at gunpoint over 20 years ago by a military officer and two members of the Village Defence Party and has never been seen again.
Through this powerful installation, using photographs printed on large straw mats, the acclaimed Bangladeshi photographer, artist and activist Shahidul Alam attempts to break the silence surrounding her disappearance.
The ethnic conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), which began in 1977 soon after the Bangladesh state came into being, continues to this day in spite of a peace treaty negotiated in 1997 between the state and the pahari people.
Amnesty International reports that more than 100,000 pahari have been displaced by the conflict. There have been multiple reports of human rights violations, massacres and the razing of entire villages by Bangladeshi forces.
The portraits of Kalpana’s warriors – those who have refused to let go of her memory and legacy – were created using laser etching on straw mats. This innovative technique, developed specifically for this exhibition, is rooted in the everyday realities of the people and the sparse conditions of Kalpana’s home where she slept on the floor on a straw mat.
Shahidul Alam said: “I wanted the portraits to be burned onto the straw mats by a laser beam to remind the viewer of the fires deliberately set by the authorities who had burnt the pahari villages – something that Kalpana was protesting about in her last confrontation with the military.”
Alongside the portraits, a series of prints explore the internal displacement of the paharis and the arrival of the government-backed Bangali settlers.
The exhibition will run between Friday 1st December and Thursday 11th January with an artist talk taking place at 6:00pm on Friday 8th December.