The 11th edition of Chobi Mela titled "Chobi Mela 0" is ready to enthral the audience with its beautiful collection from around the world.
The international photography festival will be held between 12 and 21 February at Drikpath Bhaban in Panthapath, said a press release.
This edition is going to feature a range of multidisciplinary and experimental art projects. Apart from the gallery, the classrooms, rooftop, parking space, stairwells of the newly built Drikpath Bhaban at 16, Sukrabad, Panthapath in Dhaka have been used innovatively as exhibition spaces.
Artists from abroad are unable to participate in the festival because of the pandemic this time. Visitors for the physical exhibitions will also be limited.
However, people from all over the world will be able to experience the exhibitions virtually through Chobi Mela website.
This year the Chobi Mela is comprised entirely of participants from five South Asian countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
A total of 75 artists' works has been arranged in eight curated shows – (1) [Off] Limits, (2) The Rebel with a Smile, (3) Wishing Tree, (4) Bodh: Chobi Mela Fellowship 2021, (5) Frozen Song, (6) Cross Roads Collectives Intervention, (7) Baba Betar, and (8) Chapakhana Archive.
The curators of the event are ASM Rezaur Rahman, Sarker Protick and Tanzim Wahab along with guest curators including Anushka Rajendran, Nazmun Nahar Keya and Zihan Karim.
The festival will be inaugurated through introductory speeches by photographer Shahidul Alam and the curators on the rooftop of DrikPath Bhaban, after a small rally.
There are two important individual retrospective exhibitions this year. 'Wishing Tree' is a tribute to late architect Bashirul Haq. A part of the research on the lifelong work of the first Bangladeshi female photographer Sayeeda Khanum is exhibited in 'The Rebel with a Smile.'
[Off] Limits is the largest group exhibition in the festival, which features the work of 14 South Asian artists. This includes works on various socio-political issues and movements from India, Pakistan, Sylhet, and Nepal that tend to be forgotten during the pandemic. There are also works of Bangladeshi artists like Mahmud Hossain Opu, Salma Abedin Prithi, Samari Chakma and Naeem Mohaiemen on the pandemic.
This year, 14 young artists have been awarded the Chobi Mela Fellowship. Their work is in the exhibition 'Bodh', which named after a poem of the same name by Jibonananda Das, drawing from its inspiration.
For the first time, Chobi Mela is including the works by four art collectives – (1) Jog Art Space, Bangladesh, (2) Daagi Art Garage, Bangladesh, (3) Colomboscope, Sri Lanka, and (4) Kaali Collective, Bangladesh. This project titled 'Crossroads' is a solidarity project, which encourages collaboration among neighbours.
'Baba Betar' is a different kind of presentation in this Chobi Mela. It is a web radio by Arfun Ahmed, which he started in March 2020 during the pandemic. It includes the contribution by writers, poets, thinkers, and many more. Baba Betar has been revived for Chobi Mela and it will be aired every day during the festival from 8pm to 10pm.
Nazmun Nahar Keya curated the show 'Frozen Song'. It includes experimental works by five artists – (1) Dilara Begum Jolly, (2) Effat Razowana Reya, (3) Jewel A Rob, (4) Promotesh Das Pulak, and (5) Reaz Rahman. 'Chapakhana Archive' is a part of the ongoing research and workshop by Mara Zust in collaboration with Pathshala on traditional printing techniques of Bangladesh.
Apart from the exhibitions there will be a mix of special programs and features from February 12 to 16, including portfolio reviews, podcasts, solidarity with photography schools, experiences of women photographers and artists, art book corner, educational programs for Pathshala students etc.
In remembrance of the fading tradition of small neighbourhood photography studios, there will be a temporary studio called 'Pappu Studio' by veteran studio photographer Anwar Hossain. He will also share his experience with the audience.
According to the curatorial note, with this special edition — Shunno (0), Chobi Mela raises essential questions about its own purpose.
'Shunno can be an amorphous infinite space, or a home that runs parallel with all others. Shunno is a pure matter-energy in philosophy, detached from a troubled force. After completing 10 editions in two decades, Chobi Mela mounts a self-reflective edition,' the note added.
Chobi Mela 0 invited artists and curators to create a space teeming with testimonies to the present time. The edition focuses on its home and the neighbourhood, South Asia at large, to find how regional artists and curators devise collective actions in overly divisive spaces and 'how art attempts to surmount the limits of present-day democracies with diversity, at a moment when citizens understand that states, left in the hands of exploitative forces, have failed in protecting their rights'.