Drik, an independent media organisation based in Dhaka, is celebrating its glorious journey of 32 long years.
Commemorating its 32nd founding anniversary, Drik has arranged a photography exhibition that portrays the scorched lives at Hashem Foods.
A massive fire broke out at Hashem Foods factory in Rupganj, Narayanganj on 8 July. It claimed the lives of 54 workers trapped inside the factory.
The ongoing exhibition showcases a total of 36 photographs taken during and after the fatal fire at Hashem Foods by Drik photographers Shahidul Alam, Suman Paul, Istiak Karim and Parvez Ahmad, who worked on the site of the disaster.
Additionally, as a testimony to the brutal killing, the exhibition features pictures, stories and personal belongings of the 54 victims.
However, the photographs are not all that the exhibition offers to the visitors. A cage room is decorated to create a realistic scenario of the fire.
A video clip of the burning factory along with heart-wrenching soundtracks of crackling flames and screaming victims are installed inside the cage.
A burnt shoe and notebook of a worker who loved to write poetry are also showcased there.
An infographic on a wall of the exhibition hall shows that a total of 1,918 lives have been scorched within the last three decades in separate similar incidents.
One of the visitors at the exhibition told The Business Standard, "The exhibition is quite fantastic. The representation is realistic and heart touching. Art is always powerful and an exhibition is a strong protest against such fatal incidents. I appreciate the initiative."
In a statement Shahidul Alam said, "Today is our founding anniversary. Traditionally the day is celebrated through festivities and cakes. We are an organisation that is committed to justice and upholds a fighting spirit. So, we wanted to observe this day differently. Through this exhibition we want to question the perpetual indifference by the government and the justice system regarding the repeated structural deaths at factories."
Following the Covid-19 health safety guidelines, the two-week-long exhibition will remain open to visitors from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm every day till 20 September.
The Business Standard picks some of the best works from the exhibition
1. A burnt lock
The lock that trapped the screaming workers inside the factory building and left them with no way out. Maybe, it is better to call it 'The Killer Lock'.
This piece is the only entry by prominent photojournalist and founder of Drik Gallery, Shahidul Alam.
A 4-years-old boy holding a photo of his mother's smiling face right after her DNA test is done. He still believes that she is at Rupganj, working in the factory as usual.
The innocent child is not yet familiar with what a DNA test is, nor with how cruel reality can be.
3. Broken glasses
Once there were a pair of dreamy eyes behind it. Nobody knows who it belongs to. But it is confirmed that the glass is scorched, so are the dreams and maybe its owner as well. Who knows?
4. Embracing child labour
Eighth grade student Rozina started working in the factory to support her family as her school had been closed for a long period due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She, however, did not turn into ashes but a portion of her facial skin was burnt.
Photographer Suman Paul captured these three photos and shared the stories behind them with The Business Standard.
He sorrowfully recalled his experience of covering the fire accident, "I cannot even look at the eyes of a motherless child when I go to take a picture. I have to relive the trauma every time I talk to a worker's family while taking pictures. I met this mother who wished her daughter would come back to her, even as a ghost."