Four Indian artists are participating in the latest edition of Chobi Mela, Bangladesh, the international festival of photography which has come to be one of the most significant photographic events in Asia. Organised by Drik Picture Library Ltd. and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, ‘The zero / শূন্য edition’ of Chobi Mela will be held from 12 -21 February 2021. Here are four Indian artists who are participating in this edition of the festival.
Aishwarya Arumbakkam rakes attention to the plight of a Khasi village with works from a project titled Ka Dingiei, which has been in the making since 2016.
Depicting the struggles of the indigenous community in Lama Punji, a small Khasi village of forty families located at the border of India and Bangladesh, Arumbakkam’s work archives the effects of large scale destruction the area has been subjected to since 1998 due to because of stone and sand mining, and stone crushing; the effects which are not just confined to physical habitat but also seep into community’s mythical and cultural landscape as they grapple with government-supported encroachment with little legal rights to empower them.
“While being relevant locally to the Khasi community, there is a sad universality to this tale. Indigenous communities around the world are being subject to removal of lands, denial of culture, marginalisation and discrimination. ka Dingiei is a reflection of the current plight of Lama Punji while also functioning as an archive of and for it,” writes Aishwarya in her introduction to the project.
An artist interested in mythology and cultural narratives, Aishwarya Arumbakkam has exhibited her work in India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, China, Dubai and the UK. She was selected as one of the ‘Ones to Watch’ by the British Journal of Photography in 2019. In 2020, she was awarded the Magnum Foundation ‘Photography and Social justice’ Fellowship. A Chennai native, she’s currently based in Austin where she’s pursuing an MFA in Studio Art.
An intimate portrait of familial life, ‘Intimacies,’ a Kushal Ray’s project recording the life of Chatterjee family in Kolkata began in 1998 and spanned over a decade. Becoming a frequent visitor to the family during these years, Ray chronicled the ten different members of different generations as they shared a life under the same roof of their 90-year-old house.
Being very close to the family made this work, to a large extent, personal and autobiographical. During my long association, I witnessed, and was an active participant in the joyous moments, and the grief of the Chatterjee family,” says Ray of the project.
A journalist-turned-photographer-painter, Kushal Ray was born in Kolkata. Starting his career with The Telegraph, Kolkata in 1982 as a sports journalist, he found his passion for photography while working for the paper.
One of his most talked-about works, ‘Intimacies’ was also turned into a book in 2012. The artist is the first recipient of the Dignity Grant awarded by Dayanita Singh.
A celebration of resistance, solidarity, and hope among the people of India from the mid-2000s till 2020, the project by Kolkata based artist Ronny Sen archives the tumultuous events when the people of India have risen together to reject the ideas of the establishment.
Covering various movements and protests such as- Nandigram movement, Singur, Lalgarh, the people’s resistance against operation Green Hunt, HokKolorob, the Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition row, protests after Rohith Vemula’s death, strike in FTII, protests after the Dadri lynching, protests after the murder of rationalists like Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Pansare and activist Gauri Lankesh from 2013 to 2017 to the most recent anti-NRC/CAA/NPR protests that have shaken India-, the photographs were mostly shot on the phone and widely circulated through social media platforms as a tool to amplify the voices of the dissenters.
Ronny Sen is a film director, writer, and photographer based in Calcutta. His debut feature film Cat Sticks world-premiered in the competition section at Slamdance in 2019 and won a Jury award. He has directed television documentaries for BBC.
He received the Getty Images Instagram Grant in 2016 for his work in the Jharia coal mines which were shown in his debut solo exhibition in 2018 titled, ‘Fire Continuum’ at gallery Tarq in Mumbai.
Attempting to understand ‘Kashmir-i-yat’, the essence of being a Kashmiri, artists Sumit Dayal’s project Wish you live long began when he returned home to Kashmir in 2009 after a gap of 17 years. Detaching himself from the disturbing political history of the state that has come to define it the last decades Dayal focussed on capturing scenes of daily life, static-ness of objects, changing seasons and moments that precipitate childhood memories which later evolved into three broad themes: Ongoing home, anonymous portraits collected from the Line of Control, and the family album.
Born in 1981, Sumit Dayal grew up in Nepal where his parents had moved in the late seventies. Starting as a photographer with a course in Triveni Kala Sangam in 2004, Dayal has worked as a freelance photographer since 2007. Travelling extensively since then, he has covered a wide range of stories in India and Nepal including the conflict in Afghanistan, Bhutan’s first election, the impact of rising oceans in Bangladesh.
He was one of the artists featured in ‘Witness,’ a 2017 collaborative book featuring the works of nine Kashmiri photographers. The book won several design awards this year including making it to the New York Times magazine’s top ten photo books of the year 2017.