Chobi Mela VI: The Becoming of Pathshala

This year’s Chobi Mela features more students and ex-students from Pathshala than in previous years, and this is only a reflection of the high quality of work that is being produced in the institution. The new breed of photographers is more dynamic and experimental, breaking traditional approaches and encapsulating intimacy and personal connection in their respective stories.

Syed Asif Mahmud, a second year student from Pathshala explains his workSyed Asif Mahmud shows a glimpse of his work, “My City of Unheard Prayers”. Photograph Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

An exemplary work from this lot would be Syed Asif Mahmud’s “My City of Unheard Prayers”. Mahmud is a second year student from Pathshala exhibiting at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy during Chobi Mela VI. His work is a series of images that represent his perspective on a metro life and over time, has developed into a personal account of his becoming in the chaos of an urban jungle. Although he has spent most of his life outside Dhaka, his work focuses on Dhaka and the journey he feels entangled in with his friends, thoughts and emotions.

“Because of the theme being ‘Dreams’, I felt much privileged. My story reflects on my dreams, nightmares and the reincarnation of dreams. I focused on two aspects of the city life – isolation and the rat race. I’ve primarily come from the northern part of Bangladesh and have often felt unattached or restless with the lifestyle here, and I’ve seen that same sense of isolation being reflected in many of my contemporaries. Competitiveness, anxiety, fear, isolation, depression – all these feelings encapsulate my mental state and my evolving dreams, and that is what my story is all about.”

On the other hand, Mohammad Anisul Hoque – also a student from Pathshala – tells a very different story. His work is selected for a digital exhibition at Goethe-Institut Auditorium on 23 January, titled “High Life”. Hoque holds a degree in botany and enjoys taking family pictures. His work is a selection of photographs that reflects the comfortable urban lifestyle of an affluent family in Dhaka and he portrays the various shades of colour and glamour in their lifestyle.

Mohammad Anisul Hoque prepares for a street exhibition at the end of Sohrab Hura's workshopMohammad Anisul Hoque prepares for a street exhibition with a selection of photographs from his story, “High Life”. Photograph Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

“When we think about our lives and what we all eventually dream about, this is the kind of lifestyle that we all want to settle for. We want the comfort of our families, the luxury of affluence, the security of our homes and the guarantee of a smooth way of living. My story portrays the lifestyle that many of us dream to have.”

Tushikur Rahman joined Pathshala during Chobi Mela V. In two years, he feels tremendously humbled and thrilled to have picked up so much from the institution. His work “Fatalistic Tendency” portrays an amalgamated state of mind engulfed with depression, suicidal tendencies and the death of dreams, and was one of the digital exhibits at Goethe-Institut Auditorium tonight.

“My friends tell me my work contradicts my personality. They usually know me as someone who’s very amicable and cheerful. These photographs – on the other hand – reflect on a more anxious and devastated personality.”

Tushikur Rahman carefully places a selection from his work "Fatalistic Tendency" for the street exhibition

Tushikur Rahman carefully places a selection from his work, “Fatalistic Tendency” on the walls of Pathshala for the street exhibition. Photograph Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Chobi Mela VI represents a tremendous journey – not only in terms of the festival, its exhibitions and the visiting artists, but also the students of the institution and the art of photography. As Dick Doughty, the Managing Editor of Saudi Aramco World Magazine and a visiting artist who is conducting a workshop tutor at Pathshala during Chobi Mela VI phrases it,

I felt inspired on coming to Pathshala this year. The institution is shaping to be an important and remarkable center for photography, and instead of bringing ideas from elsewhere, it has begun generating its own unique ideas.

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