As a part of this city-wide exhibition the Oriental Museum hosts an installation comprising two projected screens at each end of the South Asia gallery (level 2) which present two artworks interwoven together. They focus on Bangladesh which is predicted to undergo levels of flooding that may submerge a quarter of its land over the next few decades or so due to climate change. The unsustainable industrial forces behind this catastrophic forecast are in sharp contrast to the incredibly advanced and sustainable ancient civilization in the Indus Valley, objects from which are displayed here in cases nearby.
A photographer and social activist of considerable international stature, Shahidul has founded a number of striking photography initiatives such as the Majority World photo agency, the multimedia organisation Drik and the Chobi Mela international festival. Based in Bangladesh, one of the ongoing threads in his work is that of migration which becomes coupled with the environmental challenges from climate change.
He writes, “Bangladeshis living in the low lying coastal regions of the country are amongst the most vulnerable to climate change. In the absence of physical shelters, often living in abject poverty and generally lacking support from the state or other actors, they have to depend upon themselves for survival. This often requires relocation to areas of relative safety, where they have even fewer rights then on their own land.” In this set of twenty-one photographs, he combines documentary photography with elements of landscape and portraiture, the narrative in his compositions underpinned by written text forming a carefully observed and poetic reportage.
“Shahidul Alam poses displacement, land tenure and environmental change as central to precarious lives for the majority world. Some call this majority the precariat, a new ‘class’ living in deepening conditions of political, economic and environmental uncertainty.” Dr Andrew Baldwin, Geography Dept, Durham University.
An artwork which augments the Climate Refugees photographs by Shahidul Alam using additional photography and video, creating transitional imagery bringing the photographs into a semi-urban grittiness colliding with raw objects and elements associated with environmental deterioration such as bottles, tarmac and soil. Created collaboratively between theatre practitioner Apu and emerging photographer Murad who are UK-based Bangladeshis, the artists posture that Bangladesh must continue to be resilient to survive.
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Presented as a part of the city-wide Footprint Modulation exhibition by Metaceptive Projects and Media, in partnership with the international conference ‘Human Migration and the Environment: Futures, Politics and Invention’ at Durham University 28th June – 1st July 2015 www.durhamconference.eu