We are excited to share more about the pieces produced as part of our major new international collaboration – Artists Make Space – pairing seven Bangladesh based artists with seven UK based artists who have co-created new exploratory works.
The artists’ specialities span art forms including playwriting, visual art, music, poetry, film and more. Working with Britto Arts Trust and commissioned by the British Council, Tara Theatre presents the final works from the collaboration through a series of bespoke events this autumn. This project has been led artistically by Tara Theatre’s newest Artistic Associate Natasha Kathi-Chandra.
Learn more about each of the artists who took part and keep reading to discover how each pair approached the collaborative process over 5000 miles apart.
Please be aware that some of the descriptions contain themes, references and scenes of: mental/physical illness, grief/bereavement, transphobia/deadnaming/misgendering, homophobia, sexual violence, nudity, homophobic violence, sexual violence and domestic violence.
MEET THE ARTISTIC PAIRS
“TRAVEL THROUGH TIME…”
Ruby & Azizee
Visual artist Azizee Fawmi Khan, in Bangladesh, and playwright Ruby Kitching, in the UK, explored the theme of culture and heritage for Artists Make Space. In the six months since they were first introduced, these artists of Bangladeshi origin born 5000 miles apart, shared personal experiences and perspectives, as well as findings from their independent research, before developing their individual concepts and artforms. The final works reflect their chosen theme: in the architecture of old buildings for Azizee’s miniaturesque visual installation and the musings of an old man in Ruby’s audio play.
Ruby Kitching | UK | Surrey
Playwright & journalist
“Discovering that my father’s social profile and lived experience provided a rarely explored perspective of Bangladeshis in the UK, my play is based on his story and our history. Through five hours of interviews, complimented by a separate interview with an elderly male relative still living in Bangladesh, conversations with Azizee, research into Bangladeshi history and demographics, poetry, birds and migration (with enormous thanks to Mya-Rose Craig for her knowledge and insights), the audio play, Baki, has emerged. The improvised musical accompaniment is a personal response to the final product.”
BAKI (THE PART LEFT OWING)
When a person leaves their homeland to live in another country (whether out of necessity or by choice) it can be difficult to reconcile the old life with the new, a feeling that passes down generations. For Bangladesh’s diaspora, unraveling the effect of the country’s rich, but complicated history, creates another dimension, warped again by the subconscious ability for humans to reimagine their past according to their current perspective. Set in England, Baki, is an audio play where a son wants to understand why his octogenarian father, who left Bangladesh in the 1960s, does not feel at peace with himself. Dada’s response takes him through a kind of grieving process that navigates choice and duty, belonging and identity, memory and migration, regret, and a chance for resolution. This humorous and intimate audio experience encourages the listener to sit in Dada’s chair – an alternative to ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes’ – and allow his meandering thoughts infuse their mind.
Azizee Fawmi Khan | Bangladesh | Dhaka
Visual artist, painting & textiles
“While listening to stories of Ruby and her father and seeing how stories travel through time and space and people, I have been on a quest – to find stories of the people from the colonial period before this land found its own identity as Bangladesh. Known as the Lost City, ancient Panam Nagar is 25 km away from where I currently live. Walking around these archeological ruins, speaking with locals who still live around the area and reading books published in the 19th century, Lost In Translation materialized as a collage of native folk forms and narrations of the sentiments of this land’s ancestors.”
LOST IN TRANSLATION
In collaboration with Nargis Begum
acrylic, wooden panel, paper, silk, threads, photographs
At least people can wonder and ask questions when scumbling through memories brings no answer. I wonder if land and its structures do the same. If Lost City whispers in some ancient dialect to itself asking who took away its paddy fields, stole all the monkeys or fishes and made the lotus ponds disappear. An alternative medium presents Panam City, Nil darpan – a drama written by Dinabandhu Mitra and tales of the natives who still live there. As an amalgamation of the past and the present. By means of visual dialogues and traditional hand embroidery known as Nakshi Katha Stitches. These minisaturesque body of works are meant to travel overseas while their counterpart, a comparatively large-scale Installation Art, is meant to stay in Dhaka; similar to a person’s human experience who migrates to an unknown land leaving majority of her tangible or intangible belongings behind.
Thahmina & Monon
For us both Artists we had never co created internationally ever, so the process was not only exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time. We instantly bonded as we are both from the same region of Sylhet in Bangladesh. We also loved chatting about our favourite Sylheti foods and favourite fish of course! As we could amalgamate our languages and dialects this allowed greater and deeper connection with our collaboration even though we were millions of miles apart. We both didn’t feel like we were in different countries more like ‘down the road!’.
Our exploration of each other’s creative practises led us to speak about our passions and areas of interest. This led us to explore the important issue of Trauma. Monon exploring Sexual Trauma in Bangladesh and Thahmina exploring Intergenerational Trauma in the UK. We both created a safe space for us to listen, understand but above all share a kindness with each other with this emotive topic. The collaborative process has been authentic and genuine which has led to learning from each other and a co creation with genuine no hierarchies. We have been there for each other both through the exciting bits but other times were each other’s cheerleaders when needed and necessary. We couldn’t have envisage doing this commission would lead to this beautiful friendship and start of many hopefully amazing projects together!
Thahmina Begum | UK | Leeds
Mixed media artist, poet & art psychotherapist
ISSUES IN THE TISSUES, PAINS IN THE VEINS
Our Ancestors don’t live in the past, they live, breath and carry on in us through our flesh and bodies. Issues in the tissues, pains in the veins explores the complex and emotional issue of Intergenerational Trauma. Our bodies hold countless non-verbal stories and an abundance of emotions and traumas. This body of artwork takes you on a journey of how our genetics and epigenetics evolve, change and multiply over generations. Following the journey of grandma, mum, and daughter through lived experiences of war, poverty, racism, hybrid identities and worlds. Exploring the passing on of behaviour, attitudes, diseases, and illnesses. The body of work aims to open conversation, debate, and discussion around this topic.
Monon Muntaka | Bangladesh | Dhaka
Photography, visual artist & activist
When someone is sexually assaulted, they have suffered bodily harm that is obvious and recognisable. But this occurrence goes beyond just the harm to the body. While physical wounds can be treated, mental injuries never do. All of that person’s life, she, he, or they must carry. Ironically, only the survivors must live with the trauma for the rest of their lives. It appears that they are being penalised rather than the predators, who are the real offenders. In my work, I revealed several stories of sexual assault from people of various ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. I conducted three interviews for this project. The first person is an activist who experienced her first sexual assault when she was 4 years old. The second individual is a sex worker; she was gang-raped before turning to this line of business. The third individual is a trans woman who was viciously gang-raped.
Tia & Topu
Our approach to collaboration has been a great learning experience understanding how to support each other’s ideas and encourage one another to be ambitious and step into new artistic medium. Through early conversations we quickly established an open dialogue discussing shared interests in art and politics and discovering new perspectives through acknowledging each other’s lived experience. Being remote co-artists was a challenge we embraced to progress with our initial concept that we proposed for this project and with each other’s support and guidance we have been able to develop our artistic voices.
Tia Ali | UK | London
This is an experimental film that explores the meaning of mother tongue and legacy of heritage, through the immigrant and diaspora experience via a relationship of a mother and daughter. A daughter feels disconnected from her native language following the death of her mother and a letter is discovered that urges her contemplate reasons for not being culturally expressive. It follows a complicated journey of self-acceptance impacted by pressing systemic issues such as ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi community in Brick Lane, and a societal tone of intense surveillance established by Prevent; a government strategy, disproportionately affecting the Muslim community. As she grieves, she also finds herself at a critical point in her life to decide whether to embrace heritage and to continue a cultural legacy despite oppressive obstacles.
Emdadul Hoque Topu | Bangladesh | Dhaka
Fine Arts, film, theatre, performance, visual studies & photography
Dead space brought me here years ago! And your future, the future of our race, ends here! I was born and raised in this death place known as Dhaka city. The beginning of this abstract narrative video work attempts to capture the media elements of nature in this post-Anthropocene era. I particularly followed a few apparatuses to perform with my recording devices to observe the major components of nature, like earth, air, and water, along with human and other nonhuman life. I traveled to one of the oldest forests in south Asia, the Madhupur Sal forest, and my subconscious self led me around Dhaka. I recorded with partially mirrored glasses to comprehend Foucault’s concept of heterotopia. Our concept of utopia took us into a confined space; the roads are like a labyrinth, the struggle of all nonhuman life forms, and the phantasmal effects of new immersive media transactions and commodities keep us all busy not to look around us! During my filming, I got inspired to develop symposia on nature and its elements as a media archive to make a political statement on the environmental crisis; I critically placed my devices to form a skeptical of our idea of developing a utopia, problematic lifestyle and overall creating a poetic audio-visual expression of the experience of living in a human time.
“A TRIBUTE TO THE COMMON ROOT…”
Kamilah and Apurba
The collaborative journey in this co commission is a tribute to the common root. Though continents apart, Kamilah Ahmed (UK) and Apurba Jahangir (BD) acknowledge that their heritage has an undeniable influence on their work. Exploring shared intangible values and insights which are woven throughout the tapestry of their upbringings and present crafts ,they reference a legacy of textile and music traditions. Kamilah and Apurba document the often unseen artistry and craftsmanship from the landscape of their joint histories. An adaptation of the rhythm, the colours, the texture and the stories that have shaped them.
Kamilah’s hanging textile piece inspired by the stories of Apurba’s transcripts and a celebration of how interdisciplinary approaches can come together to create new pathways of communication.Together these elements create an on-going dialogue reflecting the past, present and future of cultural craft and identity through joint artistic endeavors. A mediative process tracing the experience of second-generation diaspora understand and redefine their identity and express cultural legacy.
Both artists sample traditional and contemporary processes that disrupt and interrupt the traditional order of craft processes. Revealing the unseen artistry behind these traditions whilst developing new forms of expression.
The process of documentation and making took place through three key stages in the tradition of Indian classical music. Each phase will have a distinct rhythm derived from collaborative process that will inform the surface patterns and technical cadence of the textile final piece. This piece will express the respective personal relationships the collaborators share with displacement and its role in shaping their present identities.
Referencing the rich traditions of Jamdani, the rhythm of the Ragas, the collaborators aim to reflect how these roots come together like a symphony to shape their current identities.
Kamilah Ahmed | UK | London
Textile & visual artist
Kamilah Ahmed is an Embroidery Specialist working across fashion and interiors. Her textile embroidered and woven hanging pieces merge contemporary processes and aesthetics with traditional handmaking techniques. The interdisciplinary approach to her work takes inspiration from Jamdani which combines weaving with hand embroidery simultaneously on the loom.
Celebrating the revival of this Bengali, Dhakai art, after its initial decline due to colonial import policies favouring industrially manufactured textiles, Kamilah aims to connect cultures through craft. She develops hand wrapped warps which are held together by digital embroidery, trapping silk yarns. She also employs other experimental approaches to combine materials to create wall hangings and tapestries, which are inspired by the hidden and threatened beauty of landscapes and the craft legacies evoked in family photographs and her illustrations. Her aim is to create contemporary embroidered artefacts that forge new traditions bridging the gap between past and present.
Apurba Jahangir | Bangladesh | Dhaka
Musician / Writer
Though a communication consultant by day his heart lies in music and writing. Inspired by the likes of Duke Ellington, Ananda Shankar, Nina Simone, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, Apurba tries to capture a blend of both genres in his approach to playing his instruments. He is currently one of the guitar players for Elita Alive and Bramhaputra Bangladesh. Whenever he’s not playing music, he tries to write. And whenever he faces writer’s block, (a frequent occurrence), he speaks through music. Through his instruments, he tries to tell the stories of his roots, sampling everyday sounds to create stories. These stories lead him into his next steps and on new and exciting paths, never knowing exactly where they will take him next.
“FREEDOM THROUGH A QUEER LENS…”
Rupinder & Mridul
Together we have aimed to create art that can take you on a journey of feelings, question the world, think about gender fluidity from the start of time to the present day. We had various conversations back and forth in which we both learnt a lot from each other. Despite the differences in our artistic disciplines we both wanted to explore the essence of freedom though a Queer lenes and what it means to us. There have been mixes of influences from our backgrounds, artistic disciplines but what brought us together is this journey of freedom. We mixed a variety of layers in our work using polaroid, video, audio, poetries, and portraits. Together we felt to express our quest for self and give a voice for the love, for the people. There are two elements to this; the documentation of the everyday life and originality of the queer community as innate truth in our society ignored by the mainstream and the Sufi, mythological perspective that we find in the Subcontinent. To end with we would like to say: Queerness is our own to see life beyond body, as love is a defying force, no rules.
Rupinder Kaur | Birmingham
Poet, performer, writer
Art for me means complete freedom. There is no other way I would want to be in this world other than to be an artist. An artist that is able to question. An artist that can bring together many disciplines to unleash the various feelings that ponder my mind. My collaborative work created for Artists make Space has influences from the Punjab and Bengal. The Search uses film as medium through storytelling, poetry, music and dance. Inspired from the Sufi poetry of Baba Bulleh Shah and Fakir Lalon Shah along with the iconic film Devi directed by Satayjit Ray. The Search explores a quest of identity, realizing that freedom comes with accepting each and every part of you. On this journey Ardhnarishwar is discovered. My poems explore these themes further by looking at gender fluidity, duality of religion, divine sexual energy beyond gender norms and true azaadi, freedom.
Mridul Kanti Goshami | Bangladesh | Dhaka
Music & photography
EGO is a visual diary of my bohemian journey and it is hinged upon the love of all my friends and friends of friends who live in different parts of Bangladesh. It’s a way to find new meaning in a situation where social negligence and violence continue to affect especially those who are forever living on the edge. In this case, the LGBTQ community, these are the people who are being pushed farther to the edges through societal prejudices and power. Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by law in Bangladesh. Section 377 of the country's Penal Code is a memento left behind by the British colonial authorities that criminalize sexual affairs between folks of the same-sex. The charge against their lifestyle is that their love is against the order of nature. EGO challenges this discourse of this order.
Abbie & Hridita
Our project began with the intent to uncover lost stories from Bangladesh and imagine them through our respective practises as illustrators. We were focusing on rural deities which were believed by both Hindu and Muslim communities of Bangladesh. Our research and discussions led us to Bonbibi, the protectress of the Sundarbans, found through the 18th century script Bonbibir Johuranama. We immediately fell in love with the story of a goddess whose mission is to protect the forest whilst securing the livelihoods of those depending upon it. The largest continuous mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, situated in South-West of Bangladesh is widely known to act as a shield against natural calamities from the Bay of Bengal. In recent times we have not only forgotten the ancient protector of the forest but also to pay our debts to the forest itself as we exploit its resources in unsustainable ways. Similarly, Bangladesh now suffers from a continuous tension in between the conflicting religious communities. It has never been more vital to remember the story of Bonbibi.
Abbie Lois | UK | Edinburgh
Multi-disciplinary visual artist
This is my interpretation of an ancient tale of a woman named Bonbibi, which began, and still continues today in the Sundarbans. Bonbibi was said to have been abandoned in a forest as a baby, only to be raised by the animals of this forest and forging her own path. She returned many years later to take her place as the forest’s protector, after defeating the relentless tiger-demon Dakshin Rai. To this day, her watchful presence serves as a reminder to those who wish to take more than their fair share from the forest. This piece has also been inspired by the traditional work of Patuas in Bengal – hand-painted scrolls telling stories of the land and its people, which are then narrated aloud. This tradition reminded me of the Seanchaí of Scotland, who acted as the ‘bearer of old lore’ – people who would narrate stories to their people as both a pastime and necessity so stories of the past were not lost. I intended to create a piece of work which touched upon both these cultures and showing their similarities through my practise as a printmaker.
Hridita Anisha | Bangladesh | Dhaka
Visual artist & sculpting
To me, ‘Born into Exile’, an excerpt from Bonbibir Johuranama written by Poet Mohammad Khater, is a story of displacement and survival. It is an allegory for the situation I find myself along with the culture of this nation as a whole – in abandonment. Currently we suffer from a confused state of cultural identity even though the history of this land is rich in multiple coexisting cultures. It was a time when communities respected and borrowed from each other to enrich their own, a phenomenon that is quite clear in Bonbibir Johuranama. In this zine I narrate a piece of this folk legend, using descriptions and illustrations to present a lesson of hope. Even in abandonment and exile we will exceed our fate if we give in to nature and become a part of it.
“LINES AND SPACE…”
Rahemur & Rakib
Rahemur Rahman and Rakib Anwar started off this collaboration by looking at areas of research that interests them both but also challenges themselves, both exploring new areas of visual research and new art forms. Both are trying to communicate with tangible objects and intangible thoughts about their own surroundings. Referencing their lived experiences, emotions, perception and a narration of those tells in our own terms. Rahemur and Rakib have both produced a sculpture as an outcome, and will project videos of their work using projectors in their partners exhibition spaces.
Rahemur Rahman | UK | London
Visual artist, fashion, arts and crafts and documentaries
wood, screws, eyelets, elastic yarn, golden bodna | 2022
A community’s waste can help tell its story. Exploring the British Bangladeshi experience structurally and texturally using furniture waste from the council estates Rahemur Rahman was born in. Rahman builds tension between the two representational pillars through color, texture, and weaving. The elasticated weave pulls the structure and changes the piece itself while also holding up a golden bodna, a visual representation of his experience within his community. Nodding towards a clean start with the water vessel which symbolizes ablution for many people around the world. Every application highlights pink in the context of gender and sexuality norms within the patriarchal home Rahman grew up in, along with the ownership of his queerness. It gives a visually impactful experience, avoiding any shyness from its origin or artist.
Rakib Anwar | Bangladesh | Dhaka
134 seconds (looped) | Video Manipulation | 2022
This project is about a shape. A found shape from an architectural space that is one of the key locations of the city that Anwar lives in. The shape has diverse characteristics, historical value, economic significance and is a good source to tell the stories of this region. Anwar intends to look at the blueprint of this old structure in a certain way where thoughts of time and human activities around concrete make a certain sense to him.