By Shahidul Alam. Dhaka 2013
The sign on the whiteboard said “Buy chips”. I couldn’t quite work out why this was so significant in the task list for the festival. Our Slovenian volunteer Barbara explained. With everyone working long hours and Emad at the secretariat being in trouble with his wife. The secretariat had worked out a ploy. Emad’s wife loved chips, so they made sure Emad went home every night with a generous helping. A broken marriage was a distraction we couldn’t afford. Certainly not until the festival was over!
The next door neighbours of Drik have been complaining. With the team working 24 hours, carpenters banging away past midnight hasn’t made us popular. In between the Croatian volunteer Siniša and the Chinese photographer Hai Zhang arriving, Arfun came in with a coffin. It was to go with Eugene Richard’s show, War is Personal. The powerful, but sensitive work needed to be contextualized for a local audience and the coffin was to be part of the exhibit. Arfun couldn’t resist playing corpse.
The volunteers have been streaming in all day. Young, energetic and somewhat awed. Graciela Iturbide, fine tuning her test prints, Pablo Bartholomew checking the texture on his frames. The energetic Zhang Hai improvising on the fly as pre-planned layouts turn out to be impractical. Rupert Grey’s 1936 Rolls Royce is making its way to Dhaka all the way from Petersfield in the UK, just in time to join the rally. Photographers are set to take over the streets of Dhaka.
The rickshaw vans are ready for their mobile tour. The theme music has been composed. The musicians have set up their sound systems. A lazy media is just waking up to the incredible event that is unfolding before their eyes, and the pressure mounts for places in the boat for the all night party. Let the party begin. Chobi Mela VII is on.
Chobi Mela – International Festival of Photography
January 25 to February 7, 2013
House 58, Road 15A (New),
Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209