The Grandmother & the “Kabakuruththuwa”

Sri Lankan grandmother 3244 http://buff.ly/1uec9RT #photography #SriLanka by Shahidul Alam

Sri Lankan grandmother  by Shahidul Alam

One burnt saucepan, 20 pages of editing, half a dozen lumosity exercises later am bored. This is life after retirement. I should probably jump on the treadmill but it is easier to turn to FB and there she was — a portrait of a Sri Lankan grandmother  by the Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam

The years fall back as I gazed at this poised and composed lady as she sits against a wattle and daub wall. The specks of white must be flecks of sunshine behind her but that doesn’t seem to bring a smile to her face. There is a grim acceptance in her lined face. I notice the long nose and the earrings. It’s not difficult to imagine that she would have been pretty and had seen better days in her life. Like the Afghan girl, she had no name. So why was I smitten about this image out of the stream of photos Alam had been posting?

Her stance, her jacket with long sleeves, the pleats of her cloth at the waist, the ease with which she sat,  flooded me with memories of my great grandmother, grandmothers and grand aunts. They all wore the same type of the traditional jacket, called the “Kabakuruththuwa.” This they wore with a long cloth, called a Kambaya.  which is not like a sarong or lungi and underneath the jacket, a cotton home made bra that my grandma called the “bosthorokkey.” Not sure if this is corruption of a Portuguese or Dutch word. Both jackets, and home made bosthorkkey’s are hardly seen now as most village grandmothers now wear dresses or skirts and blouses that one can buy off the peg.

The Kabakuruthtuwa is the traditional jacket worn mostly by women of the “Karava clan  of Sri Lanka.

Portrait of Lily Nona, probably the last lady to wear a "Kabakuruththu" in  Hikkaduwa. 27 Aug. 2013.Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Portrait of Lily Nona, probably the last lady to wear a “Kabakuruththu” in
Hikkaduwa. 27 Aug. 2013.Photograph©Chulie de Silva

It is a uniquely designed jacket, cropped just below the waist with  no shoulder seams. The V neckline is edged with lace and the sleeves are set off the shoulder with long fitting cuffs. In the old days this lace would be hand woven “beeralu”  lace, also called renda or pillow lace, which my grandmother weaved at home. Introduced by the Portuguese, the making of this lace has been revived now as a cottage industry and the lace is being sold on Alibaba.com too. The more dressy versions of the Kabakuruththuwas often have pin tucks and  lace inserts. see: women making Beeralu lace and wearing jackets with the lace.

Lily’s and Alam’s grandmother’s jacket is held with safety pins like most everyday wear ones, but my great grandmother Annie Dissanayake, befitting the daughter-in-law of Mudaliyar Andris Perera Abhaya Karunaratne Dissanayake  wore garnet or ruby ones on her jackets. These were designed along the same lines as cuff links to hold the sides together. They used to call the gems “Rathu keta” meaning red stones.  In later life these fasteners of my great grand mother were turned into ear rings and gifted to her great-grand kids.

Dissanayake Waluwa family taken on my great grandmother Annie's 75th birthday. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Dissanayake Waluwa family photo taken on my great grandmother Annie’s 75th birthday. She is in the middle with her 5 daughters, grandchildren and great grand children. The odd bod with the feet sticking out is yours truly! Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

My Mum never got into one, though I got a couple stitched — one in pink and one in white with lace and pin tucks and wore them with Malaysian batik sarongs when we lived in Penang. Now that I have reached the senior citizen’s position of being a grandma, I should get some Kabauruththu and a couple of kamabayas — after all they lend themselves beautifully to expanding waist lines. …

Happy Birthday Drik!

At 24 years Drik has grown up handsomely and I can well imagine the excitement, preparation going on at Drik now. So, here’s wishing the very best of times in the years ahead and some photo memories of the happy and unforgettable couple of years I spent among great friends at Drik. It’s a quicky A- Z romp through Drik during my time there.

A – is for Alam Bhai, the bearded, bicycle riding, founder Director of Drik — the creator, the innovator, his Amazing network of friends and his even more Aamazing & Awesome global fan club. Not to be forgotten A is also for the Audio Visual Department, where I spent many hours working with colleagues.

Shahidul Alam waits to be interviewed at Chobi Mela IV, Dhaka.  11 September 2006. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Shahidul Alam waits to be interviewed at Chobi Mela IV, Dhaka.
11 September 2006. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Shahidul Alam & David Burnett on the Drik Terrace after the launch of the Book and Film Birth Pangs of a Nation. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Shahidul Alam & David Burnett on the Drik Terrace after the launch of the Book and Film Birth Pangs of a Nation. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

B– is for the Banglarights website — I was a part of the team that set it up first in 2001 &  for Beards and moustaches that came in all sizes, shapes & shades at Drik.

Topu and Nipun in the Drik Publications Department. Chobi Mela IV visit to Drik, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 15 Nov. 2006. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Topu and Nipun in the Drik Publications Department. Chobi Mela IV visit to Drik, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 15 Nov. 2006. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

C  – is for Chobi Mela that gives everyone an  adrenalin high & of course the inimitable Drik Calendars

.On my visit to Chobi Mela IV. Photographer unknown

First visit to Chobi Mela IV, 2006. Photographer unknown

D – is for DPA – Drik Picture Agency — the first of its kind in Asia housing and archiving  incredible amount of valuable photographs. But what I remember is the team I worked with while I was there.

Joined in friendship at Drik Picture Agency (DPA) celebrating Valentine's Day.  Hands of Moinak, Tapu, Falan, Moly, Doli, Nargish,Shefali. February1 4, 2012. Drik, Dhaka, 2012. Photo Abul Kashem.

Joined in friendship at Drik Picture Agency (DPA) celebrating Valentine’s Day. Hands of Moinak, Tapu, Falan, Moly, Doli, Nargish,Shefali. February1 4, 2012. Drik, Dhaka, 2012. Photo Abul Kashem.

E – is for  Exhibitions — a continuous stream of exhibitions were on at the two galleries.

F –  is for Fine Art Prints Drik

G – is for Gallery

H – is for Hugs. Gosh! there were hugs, hugs & hugs at Drik. A very very huggable environment.

I – is for  Images there were plenty and sometimes we couldn’t remember who took them even! I is also for Interns — Anna, Bai Xi, Yan, Nabil, Barbara, Diya and all the other young ones I worked with at one time or another.

Happy days at Chobi Mela VI Secretariat with Left to Right  Anna Hofsäß, Mostafa Sorower, Adnan Wahid. 26 October 2010

Happy days at Chobi Mela VI Secretariat with Left to Right Anna Hofsäß, Mostafa Sorower, Adnan Wahid. 26 October 2010

J – is for Jokes and for Jingles of songs – everyone sang – romantic, heart rending beautiful songs  and some taught me the first few words “chokh khulle dekhi tomake. …”

K –  is for Karma, the unseen linking force that took me to Drik. …

L – is for lunch room the fun, joking and also the place  we groaned about work letting off steam and  L is also for unforgettable Lisa with that haunting smile.

M-  is for Manthan Award for RVJN and there is Majority World 

N –  is for National pride, never a shortage of it — you see it in the strong activists and the DNA Newsletters that were so fun to compile.

Bangladesh garment workers call for their rights on May Day 2011. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Bangladesh garment workers call for their rights on May Day 2011.
Photograph© Chulie de Silva

O –  is for Oops! for the mistakes we made trying to juggle too many tasks, but damage control kicked in fast with many supporters.

P – is for Photography, Publishing departments. And the much awaited Pay day. Fun was working with my colleague Mahbub in publishing putting designs together with the maestro on graphics Reza, giving us valuable points on fine tuning a design. The last design I think, that Mahbub and I worked on was this for the Jamini mag.

Drik Ad for JaminiB2Q – is for Queen’s Museum of Art in New York where the Crossfire exhibition was held in April 2012.

R –  is for RVJN,  the creative Rural Visual Journalism Network, the rooftop at Drik and the many Rickshaws and Rickshaw wallas who ferried me to and fro from Drik.

S —is for Shingara, and all the shingara and cake parties we had.

Lisa, Falan and I in happier times. 1 January 2012. Photograph Drik Photography Dept.

Lisa, Falan, Kashem and I in happier times. 1 January 2012. Photograph Drik Photography Dept.

T – is for Tea — Cha the ever favourite cuppa and of course for Terrace at Drik.

U – is for Unwavering, Unafraid, Unbowed all good words to describe Drik

V –  is for vision that Drik is.

W – is for World Press Photo – long time supporter of Drik

X – is for the  X factor of Drik — hard to understand at times, difficult to pin down but there it is — that’s what an X-factor is.

Y – is for You All of you at Drik, that I remember with affection.

Z –  is for Zippy even amidst all the hard work there is time to share a laugh and we were Zippy!

The terrace at Drik is the favourite place for photos. There's always someone with a camera. Not sure who took this photo but it was a good joke.

The terrace at Drik is the favourite place for photos. There’s always someone with a camera. Not sure who took this photo but it was a good joke.

A personal odyssey: In search of Kalpana Chakma

Magnfied view of leaf at bazaar where Kalpana and Lieutenant Ferdous had an altercation shortly before her disappearance. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Magnfied view of leaf at bazaar where Kalpana and Lieutenant Ferdous had an altercation shortly before her disappearance. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The brilliance of visual documentary combined with meticulous research in the photo-forensic study “In search of Kalpana Chakma” breaks a painful silence of the disappearance of Kalpana Chakma, an outspoken indigenous Bangladeshi woman who fought for the rights of her people.

Hand of Kalpana’s brother Kalindi Kumar Chakma. He mentions how the torch light reflected from his hand lit up Lieutenant Ferdous’ face. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Hand of Kalpana’s brother Kalindi Kumar Chakma. He mentions how the torch light reflected from his hand lit up Lieutenant Ferdous’ face. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Kalindi Kumar Chakma, a witness to the forcible capture of his sister 17 years ago, will inaugurate the exhibition at Drik Gallery on 12 June 2013, at 6:00 pm. The event being held on Kalpana Chakma Abduction Day is in solidarity with events organised on this day in three Zilla’s of Chittagong HIll Tracts where generally, no such show is made by Bangali. The show will be open to visitors till the 21 June 2013 at the Drik Gallery, House 58, Road 15 A (new) Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209.

Kalpana’s brother, who was also taken away, in the paddy field they had walked through that night. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Kalpana’s brother, who was also taken away, in the paddy field they had walked through that night. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The architects of the study are Shahidul Alam, photojournalist, activist and scientist and Saydia Gulrukh, a social scientist, activist and journalist. They present not only a visually engaging exhibition but also a detailed examination and a re-enactment of an issue that has been conveniently obscured by successive Bangladeshi governments.

Kalpana’s sister-in-law who was there when she was abducted. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Shahidul Alam

Kalpana’s sister-in-law who was there when she was abducted. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Shahidul Alam

As journalists, Saydia and I have tried to follow every lead possible, through every means possible, to speak to every key player in the story,” says Alam.  They have traced obscure links, overcoming fears of repercussions, to reviving lost contacts, building trust, locating documents that were inaccessible. “From the paharis to the settlers, from government officials to military big wigs, from lawyers, to local bystanders, we have searched for clues wherever the slightest lead existed.”

Edge of ribbon Kalpana wore. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Edge of ribbon Kalpana wore. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Kalpana’s experiences, last moments are poignantly dressed and presented via everyday ordinary things  – a ribbon that would have adorned her hair, a favourite shoe, the mosquito net she slept under, her brother’s palm which reflected the torch light that lit up the alleged abductor Lieutenant Ferdous’ face – all transformed using a full spectrum of forensic options and shaped for interpretation in this exhibition by Alam, the scientist.

Segment of Kalpana’s shoe. Cyan excitation, Green radiation. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Segment of Kalpana’s shoe. Cyan excitation, Green radiation. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

“ I have extracted visual fragments using lights, filters and lenses to get the data to yield images. Working in Tokyo, using printing techniques not yet made public, says Alam the photographer.  “I’ve rendered on paper imagery that describes in light and shade, what those silent witnesses have tried to say”

The word ‘fear’ written in Kalpana’s diary. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The word ‘fear’ written in Kalpana’s diary. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The images he has created, while based upon complex scientific procedures, does not ‘prove’ anything. The objects he had photographed, while silent witnesses, had not ‘seen’ the crime. The artifacts, interviews, videos and photographs Alam and Gulrukh present are not ‘evidence’. But it opens a rich forum for dissent and effectively shatters the silence successive Bangladeshi governments, whether civilian or military backed, has carefully nurtured for the seventeen long years.

The exhibition is the fourth in the series “No more”, a public awareness campaign of Drik PLC.

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The exhibition opening will be live on www.drik.tv at 1800 hrs (GMT +6).

See also: Searching for Kalpana Chakma on ShahidulNews; www.drik.net

International Media Contact: Chulie de Silva: chuls201@gmail.com

AnthropoGraphia: 2013 Human Rights Visual Storytelling Awards

AnthropoGraphia Award 5th Edition
Human Rights through visual storytelling.

AnthropoGraphia has announced a call for entries for the 2013 Human Rights through Visual Storytelling Award.

Call for entries ends: 7 May 2013.

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Human Rights Through Visual Storytelling
 
AnthropoGraphia will grant a 3,000$ award to one outstanding Visual Storytelling essay.

This is an excellent opportunity for visual storytellers to exhibit their work and demonstrate their commitment to human rights issues.

For the 2013 edition, AnthroGraphia will be selecting 12 photo-essays and 6 multimedia projects from the entries submitted. These will be chosen by a team of curators that includes Matthieu Rytz, the president of AnthropoGraphia, and 2 guests curators:  Adrian Evans – Director of Panos Pictures, and Shahidul Alam – photographer, writer, lecturer and human rights activist, Managing Director Drik PLC

Adrian Evans                                                Shahidul Alam
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Álvaro Laiz – winner of an honorary mention at the 4th edition of the AnthropoGraphia Award
Mongolia is a sovereign nation and the least densely populated country in the world, with fewer than two inhabitants per square kilometre. Homosexuality is still taboo there. The weight of tradition and the years under Soviet domination, a time during which homosexuals were sent to the gulag, constitute a great burden for gays, lesbians, and transsexuals, who continue to be repressed, rejected, and victimized.
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Chobi Mela VII International Photography Festival on NYT’s Lens blog

A Rohingya child in a camp in Bangladesh. Photo Saiful Huq Omi

A Rohingya child in a camp in Bangladesh. Photo Saiful Huq Omi

From Bangladesh, a Photo Festival Builds Bridges

JAMES ESTRIN of the Lens Blog featured Drik’s Chobi Mela International Festival and said:

There are well over a hundred photo festivals around the world, and new ones pop up almost daily. Many claim to be international, usually exhibiting a few local photographers alongside some international — read Western — photographic luminaries.

What sets apart the Chobi Mela International Festival of Photography in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is that it is not only truly international, but is also perhaps the world’s most demographically inclusive festival. Running this year from Jan. 25 through Feb. 7, it will feature photographers from 23 countries and every continent except Antarctica. This year, separate programs, presentations and exhibits focus on photography from China, Russia, Nigeria, Latin America and the Middle East as well as Bangladesh.

He featured 2 of the artists at the festival.

One was Saiful Huq Omi  a renowned Bangladeshi photographer (Slides 8 to 12) who has been documenting the plight of the Rohingyas, a Burmese Muslim ethnic minority. Tens of thousands of them have fled oppression, human rights violations and violence in western Myanmar and now live as refugees in Bangladesh.

Photo Maïmouna Guerresi

Photo Maïmouna Guerresi

The other was  Maïmouna Guerresi who was raised a Catholic in Italy but converted to Islam after encountering an African Sufi community in Senegal. She is a sculptor, video artist and photographer who lives both in Italy and Senegal.

Read more at:

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/04/from-bangladesh-a-photo-festival-builds-bridges/

Raghu Rai: shooting from the heart

Legendary Indian Photographer Raghu Rai at the launch of his book "Bangladesh: The price of freedom" at the Bengal Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 7 Dec. 2012. Photo Chulie de Silva

Legendary Indian photographer and photojournalist Raghu Rai at the launch of his book “Bangladesh: The price of freedom” at the Bengal Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 7 Dec. 2012. Photo Chulie de Silva

The lady in red leaned forward, looked into Raghu Rais eyes and asked “So is it the photographer’s eye that matters?”

Rai put his hand on his heart and said “No, not the eye, photos are taken with my heart. The eye is connected to the heart.

One only needs to take a look at his collection of images in the  book  and exhibition “Bangladesh: price of freedom” he launched at the Bengal Gallery to see how true his words are.

Banner at the launch of Raghu Rai's book "Bangladesh: the price of freedom." at the  Bengal Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 7 December, 2012. Photo Chulie de Silva

Banner at the launch of Raghu Rai’s book “Bangladesh: the price of freedom.” at the Bengal Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 7 December, 2012. Photo Chulie de Silva

The book was not available but in the exhibition catalogue he said “It was August and monsoon was at its peak, the sky was a deep grey and it rained all the way. The border was not just porous; it was overflowing from all sides. The refugees with their meagre belongings were pouring in. Once in a while people appeared in bullock carts. Most were drenched and soaked in rain, and overwhelmed with suffering and fatigue. There was a kind of silence – no one talked. There was nothing the others did not know. It was a national tragedy common to all.”

The sound of silence was with him four decades after.  In his short speech at the book launch the pain surfaced as he remembered poignantly, ” the silence was so painful – amazing and unbelievable. … I was suffering.”

The finding of negatives of these 1971 images that were thought to be lost is recounted by Shahidul Alam in his blog Shahidulnews. “. … the significance of newfound work by the great image maker would have been exciting in itself. While reliving the torment was painful, I couldn’t help being awed by the enormity of the find. And what a find!”

In the foreword to the book Alam says “They say photographs tell more of the observer than the observed. It is this gentle but probing eye that holds these frames together. An eye that watches, from close up, but ever so lightly. Raghu tiptoes delicately through this muddy path. Careful not to let his penetrating gaze leave shards that might cut. But the gaze is unrelenting all the same. A lonely mother by the root of a giant banyan tree, is as carefully lifted onto his frame, as the smiling muktijoddha playing with his new found pet rabbit. It is the human condition stripped bare. Revealing all, but still holding secrets. Secrets in those eyes, that carry the burden of near ones lost, of homes torn asunder, of journeys leading nowhere. Eyes that close without sleeping.”

Alam’s foreword is a must read for all before visiting the exhibition. His summing up succinct- “There is the sadness of loss, and the joy of victory, but there is no staged heroic imagery. Rai photographs the frailty of people, even fighters. An unsure young Mukti, barely taller than his gun stands by a fluttering flag. His posture giving away his rural origins. These are the heroes who will never have roads named after them. Who will never assert their ‘rights’ as muktijoddhas. Who will return to the paddy fields. It is this ability to capture the quintessential moment, where a fraction of a second becomes the unique signifier of a time. The fleeting moment that becomes timeless, that makes Rai the artist that he is. It is not a war that he has photographed, but humanity itself.”

'A photograph has to be a 'Dharshana"/Raghu Rai.Banner detail at the launch of Raghu Rai's book "Bangladesh: the price of freedom." at the Bengal Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 7 Dec. 2012.. Photo Chulie de Silva

‘A photograph has to be a ‘Dharshana”/Raghu Rai.
Banner detail at the launch of Raghu Rai’s book “Bangladesh: the price of freedom.” at the Bengal Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 7 Dec. 2012.. Photo Chulie de Silva

Raghu Rai joined Magnum Photos in 1977 as a Correspondent. 

“A photograph has picked up a fact of life, and that fact will live forever.”/ Raghu Rai

Drik Wins Asia Publishing Award for “Birth Pangs of a Nation”

APA poster-1blog 2

Drik won the Asia Publishing Award for “Birth Pangs of a Nationin theBest Insights into Asian Societies (Non-Fiction) Category” at a Gala award ceremony in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, today, 30 November, 2012.

The book and the film “The Birth Pangs of a Nation” was produced in 2011 to celebrate 40 years of Bangladesh’s turbulent history and to present a visual map of the birth of a nation. The story poignantly unfolds through images by some of the finest photojournalists in the world and personal interviews of photographers, freedom fighters, refugees and care givers. Some of the photographers have long since passed away. Those who are alive recall events as each experienced it, from a particular vantage point. All this made it a unique compilation that adds to the rich fabric of the history of the country.

 Drik in accepting the award dedicated it to the “the brave and courageous people portrayed in this book and the twenty photographers from Bangladesh, France, India, UK and USA who themselves took risks to document the events.”

The Bangladeshi War of Liberation, like all other wars, has a contested history,”  said Shahidul Alam, editor of the book. “The number killed, the number raped, the number displaced, are all figures that change depending upon who tells the story. But the visual record is a testament to the resilience, the powerful spirit and dignity of the people who were caught in this.”

It is our wish that the younger generation will be inspired by the powerful spirit and courage of the people of Bangladesh,” Alam said.

Coming after 40 years, we remember them today, with both a tear and a smile.

Drik thanks the Asia Publishing Committee for the recognition;  UNHCR Bangladesh for their support in this endeavor aand the core team and many others who contributed to the production of this book.

For more about the book and a selection of images : http://drik.net/the-birth-pangs-of-a-nation/

See also: http://drik.net/

Bangladeshi blogger wins “Reporters without Borders” category awards” at BoBs

Shahidul Alam with Jury Members of the Best of Blogs.  Photographer unknown.

Hot off the WordPress of blogger Shahidul Alam is the news of the Bangladeshi journalist Abu Sufian’s blog about extrajudicial executions and other kinds of injustice is the jury choice in the “Reporters Without Borders” category of this year’s BOBs (Best of Blogs competition), organized by the German radio station Deutsche Welle. It was chosen from 11 finalists by an international jury consisting of bloggers and a Reporters Without Borders representative.

In addition to the User Prizes, the jury of bloggers, media experts and activists also got shut into a conference room for a day to cure the best blogs, and campaigns and media project in the main six multilingual categories.

Blogger and journalist Arash Sigarchi was this year’s big winner, taking the Jury Award for Best Blog with Window of Anguish,” where he writes about human rights, social and political topics about his homeland. Window of Anguish is widely read inside and outside of Iran for its objective view of current events. Currently in Washington, Sigarchi maintains close connections to many sources in Iran.

It’s a pity that some of us can’t enjoy reading all the blog pieces and hope someone will translate the winning pieces into English. But its great to see bloggers being recognised for their work.

Link to Shahiduls Post  for more.

Go check out the winners:

http://thebobs.com/english/category/2012/?only_winners=true