Lincoln Park — An art exhibition at the new Lincoln Park Gallery presents the life and work of renowned Bangladeshi photojournalist, teacher, writer and activist Shahidur Alam.
“Shahidul Alam: We Shall Defy” will be on display at Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood Ave. Until Saturday, when the entire exhibition space is closed. The Alam exhibition will be on display again when Lightwood 659 reopens in the fall of October 1st.
“We Shall Defy” contains many of Alam’s photographs intertwined with the work of others in his artist and activist community. At the heart of the exhibition is a series of nine banners inspired by the ancient Bangla art Patachitara, which uses cloth scrolls to share detailed depictions of mythological stories.
Each banner contains photographs by Alam and 14 artists showing the turbulent experience of the Bangladeshi people. They shed light on migration, sex workers, indigenous peoples, disappearances and militarization.
The photographs are complemented by illustrations and writings by three other artists. Amal Akash, Dhaka’s singer-songwriter, visual and performance artist. Alam’s niece, Sophia Karim, London architect and visual artist. New York-based filmmaker, writer, photographer and installation artist Naim Mohaimen.
Alam said he included other forms of art because he felt that much of the story could only be told through photography.
“Photographing as a medium is great for rendering what’s in front of us, but we’re not good at capturing what’s physically lacking,” says Alam. “For that, I had to develop a very different vocabulary to tell those stories.”
Alam has spent his life campaigning for social justice, often challenging the global domination of the white Western media. He worked with photographers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East to establish Majority World, an agency that provides equal opportunities for underrepresented group photographers.
“I wasn’t happy with being called the Third World, so I started using the term” majority world “in the early 90’s,” Alam said. “We happen to be the majority of humanity, and the world that talks a lot about democracy seems to forget that we are the majority, so I wanted to turn things around.”
He said some of the artists in “We Shall Defy” were taught by Alam through Majority World.
The exhibition also features an illustration board with texts and sketches by Karim representing the time of photographers and activists in Kerani Gangji Prison.
Alam was detained on August 5, 2018, after an interview with Al Jazeera. There he talked about student protests across the country and criticized the Bangladeshi government.
Alam was arrested by Bangladeshi security forces, blindfolded, handcuffed, and charged with inciting violence against the state in particular. According to CNN, he was tortured during his detention. He was imprisoned for 107 days.
Alam was released after the global #FreeShahidulAlam campaign, where Karim became very involved, Alam said. A few weeks later, he was featured in the Time’s Person of the Year issue. However, he said the case was still pending and he would face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.
“I was saying [my niece] About my experience in prison, and because she’s an architect, I initially thought she would build an architectural model to tell the story, “Alam said. “But I found it more meaningful for her to reconstruct using sketches based on my memory.”
The exhibition’s themes include politics, human rights, media, education and culture, Alam said.
“It’s about resistance,” he said. “A country like me is known for what we don’t have, money. [and] Resources — But people forget that these are very tenacious people. The real story is, despite all this, democracy and the ability to resist and strive for rights. “
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