The Public Poll: Counting the final hours before Chobi Mela VI hits the streets

Only a few hours remain to the grand opening of Chobi Mela VI – the unique international photography festival of our time. Everyone is bubbling with excitement. The festival not only attracts photography connoisseurs and students from around the globe, but also becomes the talk of the town. To make things fun, we went around Dhaka and virtual social networking platforms to find out what the aam janata (general public) has got to say about this year’s exhibition(s).

Mashroor Nitol, a 22-year old from Khulna University of Science and Technology is a young photo enthusiast and has been to some of the Chobi Melas in the past.  He feels drawn to the festival because of the selection of photographs and their diversity, and how different photographers relate and approach a common theme. He’s thrilled to be in Dhaka during this year’s exposition, and remarks excitedly:” When I think about Dreams as a festival theme, I imagine myself in a place where each image somehow relates back to my own dreams – things that I experience in my sleep as well as those I aspire in life. I love the way Chobi Mela tends to make us rethink everyday experiences, such as dreaming as more than what they are and adds fresh perspective into the way I see my relationship with the photographs.”

Meanwhile, 19-year old Musfiq talks about how he has colourful and black-and-white dreams. “I’ve never been to Chobi Mela in the past, but some of my friends are constantly discussing it. The posters seem to be everywhere! The theme sounds interesting and I want to know how dreams are expressed through photographs. Scientifically, I’ve read how dreams are colourless, but I see many colours when I dream – and to see it being portrayed through a visual medium will help me understand how other people also dream.”

Chobi Mela VI posters on the walls of Dhaka intrigue pedestrians. Photograph Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Cha-wala Shah Alam has seen strange-looking vans with pictures all over them two years back in the streets. He found it rather amusing and thought they were promoting tourism in Bangladesh. On meeting up with him, we explained how the vans represented the moving exhibitions of a much larger festival and that these photos – in fact – were some of the most iconic pieces in the world. Shah Alam raised an eyebrow and said:

Toi eto daami sobi raastaye raastaye ghurbo kya? Manushey toi kisu buzbona!” (translate: Why are such priceless photographs roaming around in the streets? People will not understand anything!)

We told him how the mobile exhibitions provided everyone with an access to the festival, but Shah Alam remains unconvinced.

On the other hand, 32-year old Ariful Zaman works at a private bank and enjoys doing nature photography. He is a regular Flickrite – one of the largest online platforms for photo sharing and showcasing – and tells us how Chobi Mela instills a sense of pride in his heart.

“To imagine some of the world’s best photographers coming to Bangladesh and experiencing our country in ways beyond the usual stories of poverty and natural calamities is an honour, and it feels good to know they take positive memories back home. The fact exhibitions that have been to New York or London or Paris are being shown in the same way to Bangladeshis is an overwhelming opportunity. For us enthusiasts, this is a remarkable experience. I’ve been coming to Chobi Mela since 2004 and every time, I feel excited to meet so many photographers from different corners of the world as well as see such versatile bodies of work.”

Speculations are high and everyone is anxious. What will Chobi Mela VI be like? How will photos share stories of dreams? Where to go and what to see? Chobi Mela has been growing each time and on its 6th season, it brings together thoughts, images and stories that keep civilizations alive and with life. At a time of chaos and divide, dreams are what holds us together – and Chobi Mela VI promises to deliver diversity and unsung stories of time.

Only a few hours to go!

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