Life at Suhrawardi Uddyan

Life at Suhrawardi Uddyan, photo essay by Kazi Riasat Alve

Suhrawardy Uddyan is one of the largest and the oldest parks in Bangladesh. It is related to many historic events of the country. These days this park has become more than just open space for refreshment, it is a sanctuary to many who find themselves abandoned or destitute in the city. The country’s largest university and Art College sit on the edge of the park and the open, free space buzzes with the conversations of many artists and intellectuals. In this way it was a space for free thinking and many movements in the history of Bangladesh started from this space.

Dhaka has grown into a huge city of more than 20 million people; huge number of more people is still coming here in search of better opportunities. Moreover, during a specific season many more people come to Dhaka from the northern part of Bangladesh because of “Monga” – a seasonal state of joblessness and famine affecting north Bengal. Moreover many people are migrating to big cities like Dhaka from southern states too. They have often lost their home and livelihoods because of the rapid change of climate and agricultural conditions. In this sprawling city many of them find shelter on the streets, in railway stations, and parks like Suhrawardy Uddyan. In This ongoing project so far I documented homeless people living in the park beside the activists, artists used to gather there.

Most of the homeless people came to Dhaka either as victim of climate change or for seasonal joblessness problem from different parts of Bangladesh as I mentioned earlier. And at the same time from the very early history of Bangladesh this park worked as a hub for artists and political activists as well. Many political and democratic movements started from the meetings of activists and artists who used meet there and got united. There was a regular gathering of artists named “Chhobir Haat”. The current government of Bangladesh thinks “Chhobir Haat” is a threat for government’s existence as the current ruling party of Bangladesh came into power in a very undemocratic and questionable election procedure. Now government officials have put an unofficial ban on “Chhobir Haat”, as the government feels like any organized movement or uprising can start-up from this gathering.

In this stage of my project I’ll mostly work on this political importance of this park. This space always worked as a hub for intermixing people from artists and activists to underprivileged general people. I’d like to document this socio-political significance of this space. I’ll research on government’s insecurity towards this intermixing of people and how it might start an uprising for the greater good of a country like Bangladesh.

Q&A with Kazi Riasat Alve

Photography is…
To me photography the medium by which I can express my vision to the world best. Photography is like a language or medium which is understood by everyone in the world.

Photography and writing…
I think as a writer photography works more engaging to my audiences. My photography expresses how I see the world and my text should engage people with my vision of seeing this world.

Who left the biggest impression on you?
I was inspired by many people. At this point of its become very difficult for me to say about few names. But When I just started I was hugely inspired by Josef Koudelka, Bruce Gilden and some Old school Japanese photographers like Daido Moriyama.

Tell us a little about yourself
At first I was a student of media and communication studies and suddenly I felt like I need a medium to express my vision to wider community. As a consequence I picked up photography and documentary photography in a Dhaka based photography school named Counter Foto. So far I worked on two projects, which are widely published, awarded and exhibited internationally so far. Now I’m working on some socio-political issues of Bangladesh.

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