Don’t you know who I am?
Syeda Samira Sadeque Arts & Culture

South Asian artists grapple with official markers of identity versus the subjective experience of the self

  • In this age of state paranoia post-9/11 America, Elahi leaped into an era of self-surveillance. His work depicts a collage of 32,000 photos that he sent to the FBI during that time period.  
    Photo- Hasan Elahi
  • Gurung uses art to address the issue of migration from Nepal, which has increased exponentially since the civil war, and has left a generational gap that affects a sense of community.  
    Photo- Hitman Gurung
  • Abdul, an Afghani who has lived as a refugee in Germany and India, uses performance art to scream out her story – except, the scream is silent. In Speaking and Hearing (1999-2001), her mouth opens to depict stories of what she’s lost in the conflict in Afghanistan.  
    Photo- Lida Abdul
  • Nortse uses mixed-media works, using traditional Tibetan imagery, to address issues such as global warming, environmental degradation, over-population, alcoholism, the erosion of culture and tradition, and the desire to establish one’s own identity in a world of mass media. 
    Photo- Nortse

This exhibition will feature works that have roots in the South Asian region including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, India, Nepal and Tibet. In this age of globalization, when most information is represented through statistics and numbers, this exhibition will portray information – profiles – beyond the traditional and critical methods. 

“The exhibition will look at the role of fantasy and subjectivity in creating a profile of a person, beyond the traditional and clinical methods applied by statistical analyses, government data agencies, economic interests, community interests, or even dictatorial censorship,” curator Diana Betancourt said.  

While the next door exhibition, The Missing One, looks to the sky for answers, this emotional exhibition requires delving into the dark crevices of the contemporary human condition, which is expected to help the audience interpret multiple meanings. 

“Warm bodies, cold bodies, and metamorphic bodies transitioning between these states challenge the viewer in this exhibition. It seeks to give agency to the spectator’s imagination rather than reduce the artworks to their often disturbing and sometimes political implications. In the spirit of this agency,” said Diana. 

“I leave the viewer with the words of artists, rather than my own, as non-forensic cues to rethink what we consider evidence and the importance of fiction as we consider,” she said.  

One of the interesting pieces in this exhibition is the Ghana versus Getty exhibition by Maryam Jafri, who juxtaposes stories behind photos provided by Getty Images as well as the Ghanian government. Jafri was inspired to do this when she recently found several photos of Ghanian Independence Day on Getty Images, with their copyright over these photos. Upon checking data with both sources, it turned out that facts and details weren’t consistent. 

“Getty vs Ghana takes the overlapping images in both image banks and posits them not to speculate on the past but to tap into contemporary concerns about copyright, digitization, and the foreign ownership of national heritage,” Jafri says on her website. 

Syeda Samira Sadeque

Syeda Samira Sadeque is a journalist at Dhaka Tribune. 

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