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Ten Days in Dhaka


Arifur Rahman

Photography exhibition by Arifur Rahman in the Wiesner Student Art Gallery (Student Center 2nd floor)

Arifur Rahman, a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering at MIT, was born in Bangladesh and currently lives in New York. His exhibit opened on Sunday and we caught up with him later that day. He selected these photographs from the exhibited material. The exhibition was funded by a grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT.

The Tech: You are wearing a robe.

Arifur Rahman: It is a "Panjabi," a traditional garment for special occasions.

TT: How long did you live in Bangladesh? Was this the first time you went back?

AR: I lived there for about 19 years. I first went back two years later, and then again now.

TT: Did you see things differently? Did your viewpoint change?

AR: Absolutely. Things struck me differently. I was more sympathetic.I felt guilty realizing what these people were going through and how fortunate I was to live here in the States.

TT: Do you know these people?

AR: No, they were mostly unknown to me, yet they were very cooperative. Sometimes they showed me things that they otherwise would not reveal. For example, I arrived at the pottery village during a religious holiday. They were not supposed to work. So I told the man that I came from very far away. He laid everything out to show me what he does.

TT: Tell us a little about each of these pictures.

AR: "Sadar ghat" is a river port in old Dhaka. These are like taxis or ferries shipping people to and from the old part of the city. The guy with the snakes is a fortune teller. He is in complete control and he is a little bit authoritarian. It makes it more convincing. He tells you what your future is and that is it.

TT: Have you received any reaction to the exhibition?

AR: Actually, one person wrote to me who was very unhappy with my selection of photographs and the portrayal of the city. She is also from Dhaka.

TT: What did she not like?

AR: She said that there are other things to show, like the beautiful sites of the country, and a lot of wonderful scenery that accompany the misery and poverty. She said that these are the same type of "tragedy pictures" that the media always uses to portray third world countries.

TT: But some of these people look so happy.

AR: That is my point. These people live in slums and on the street. They do not know what tomorrow will be like and yet they are happy and satisfied with their lives for the moment. I want people to react to this - I want the viewer to be curious. If I can achieve that, I will be very satisfied.

Gbor Csnyi