The eleventh edition of Chobi Mela, an international photography festival, ended on Sunday with a huge visitor turnout at DrikPath Bhaban in the capital’s Panthapath area.
The 10-day event titled Chobi Mela ‘Shunya’ was jointly organised by Drik Picture Library Ltd and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute.
A total of 75 artists and photographers from South Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, participated in this edition, which featured eight projects in eight segments, namely Off-Limits, The Rebel with A Smile, Wishing Tree, Frozen Song, Crossroads Collectives’ Intervention, Baba Betar, Chhapakhana Archive and a number of projects under Chobi Mela Fellowship 2021.
Keeping health safety measures in mind, direct participation of international artists was avoided at this year’s event.
The exhibition paid tribute to the country’s first female photographer Sayeeda Khanam and eminent architect Bashirul Huq through two individual exhibitions. Both the maestros died in 2020 amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
This edition’s festival director Tanzim Wahab said, ‘We organised this edition so that the participants could get a chance to work in the time of COVID-19 crisis. We did not expect that a large number of visitors would come at the festival. The majority of the visitors are young, which is a positive sign for us.’
‘We opened a virtual exhibition on the concluding day targeting our foreign guests. The foreign guests will be able to see the exhibitions virtually across the globe. We focused on home and our neighbouring countries in this edition. The DrikPath Bhaban, the media academy for Bangladesh and South Asia, was also launched for the new media art and journalism,’ Tanzim Wahab added.
Monju Chowdhury, a visitor, told New Age, ‘I am very happy to be here. I came here along with my friends. The current edition contains many exhibitions, more than the previous one. Many young visitors thronged the venue and everybody was seen wearing a mask.’
As was the case with the past two editions, this year’s Chobi Mela was focused on a range of projects exploring both photography and multimedia. Additionally, it has taken an initiative to bridge the gap between artists working in various mediums, including film, installation, video, sound, podcasts and even radio broadcasting.
The curators of this edition were Tanzim Wahab, ASM Rezaur Rahman and Sarker Protick while there were guest curators who brought in several projects and they included Anushka Rajendran, Nazmun Nahar Keya and Zihan Karim.
Chobi Mela awarded fellowships to 14 young artists. Inspired by Jibanananda Das’s poem ‘Bodh’, curator Zihan Karim had titled the award segment ‘Bodh’.
Four art collectives were featured in this year’s festival in the segment ‘Crossroads’.
The curated segments showcased works of 32 local and South Asian artists. The participating collectives were Cheragi Art Show (Jog Art Space) from Chattogram, Daagi Art Garage from Dhaka, Kali Collective from Dhaka and Colomboscope from Sri Lanka.
One of the highlights of the festival was a web-based radio and sound archive ‘Baba Betar’. Created by artist Arfun Ahmed, this experimental art radio project was launched in March, 2020 during the time of the novel coronavirus outbreak. For 36 days from mid-March, this web radio broadcast on its Facebook page and cloud radio platform under the same name. It was broadcast from the festival’s website for 10 consecutive days from 8:00pm to 10:00pm during the festival.
The exhibition ‘Frozen Song’, curated by Najmun Nahar Keya, was on view right next to the Pathshala library project.
This edition also observed ‘Drik Day’ and ‘Pathshala Day’ during the festival which began on February 12.
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