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বন্যা (Bonna)

Curated by Diana Campbell

DAS 2023 is told through the voice of বন্যা (Bonna), a character who speaks from Bangladesh to the world. She is a bold young girl who expresses her dynamic personality fearlessly, refusing to be silenced by her brothers, uncles, or forefathers. Bonna is a common name in Bangladesh, and it also means ‘flood.’ In Bangladesh, a flood does not simply translate into a singular connotation of “disaster.” The DAS concept of বন্যা (Bonna) challenges binaries - between necessity and excess, between regeneration and disaster, between adult and child, between male and female. DAS 2023 invokes and interpretsবন্যা (Bonna) as a complex symbol-system, which is indigenous, personal and at once universal, an embodied non-human reversal of how storms, cyclones, tsunamis, stars, and all environmental crises and “discoveries” are named. 

বন্যা (Bonna),the young girl, is an activating creative force who offers us an invitation to join her in sharing stories and asking questions. She asks why the words for weather are gendered, what the relationship between gender, the built environment, and climate change might be…why her namesake has been deployed as a weapon against indigenous people for centuries across the continents. She is filled with wonder when she sees that the traces of her physical growth and traces of floods are measured with similar horizontal lines marked vertically on a wall. She wonders if her name might mean something different now, as the floods she encounters in traditional as well as modern forms of artistic expression are very different from the ones she witnesses outside with her own eyes today. “বন্যা (Bonna)” is joined by over 1,200 Bangladeshi children who made artistic contributions to the exhibition as part of the production process and education programming of DAS 2023. 

As with the movement of peoples and ideas, languages travel too, often embedded in songs and stories from which we can try to trace their point of origin. DAS 2023 considers the ways in which humans form, inherit, and establish vocabularies to understand the world around us, and the mistranslations that can ensue when we try to apply singular terms to unfamiliar contexts. The same word can migrate from positive to negative connotations and back depending on how and where it travels. Weather and water are shapers of history and culture, as well as being metaphors for life in general. The aim is to see past the limits of translation which can be incapable of conveying the different ways we negotiate the world, while opening new channels for transcultural empathy. How do you tell the story of multiple crises, while facilitating hope? 

Storms have eyes and eyes have storms. We can be flooded with emotions, yet reduced to singular drops of tears. We give storms human names; we describe human emotions using terms that are also applied to weather. Extreme weather and the absence of state management was the tipping point for Bangladeshis to declare independence in 1971 and fight for the right to express themselves in their own language. As the Ghanaian-Scottish designer, thinker and educator Lesley Lokko insightfully points out, “When you are in the eye of the storm, this is often the right point to push for maximum change.” 

For millennia, humans have invoked their minds and bodies through prayers, rituals, songs, and dances to summon rain from the sky. Bonna is now learning that humans with power are not only filling the earth with genetically modified seeds, but also now seeding the sky with clouds. During Bengali New Year, Bangladeshi people sing a song written by Rabindranath Tagore, Esho hey Boishakh, which calls upon the first month of summer to bring storms to wash away any residue of ugliness from the previous year. When considering this, and the traditional ways of coping and celebrating polar forces, we must acknowledge that climate change is accelerating and causing even more dramatic events, often beyond the capacity of even the most resilient people’s ability to survive. 

Climate change is not unidirectional. It is a systemic and episodic transformation of ecologies, systems and structures over time. While these same conditions once historically evolved to be considered as protective, today they are fragile, imbalanced and precarious at multiple scales. DAS 2023, in collaboration with its artists and curators, presents the work of organizations from across the country who are realizing the capacity for more meaningful, just, and beautiful forms of life in situations some may misguidedly see as “hopeless.” 

Bonna is the overarching narrative of DAS 2023; made up of works of art that tell a story across the venue of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, also containing chapters within it which are complete exhibitions in themselves: Very Small Feelings; Samdani Art Award; To Enter the Sky; and Duality, which are also part of Bonna and are told through the voice of guest curators in dialogue with Chief Curator Diana Campbell and Ruxmini Reckvana Q Choudhury and Swilin Haque. 



Joydeb Roaja

Submerged dream 8 (জলমগ্ন স্বপ্ন ৮), 2022-2023

Ink on Paper and board

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation for DAS 2023

Courtesy of the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary

This immersive installation submerges visitors in a metaphorical lake of tears. In 1962 under Pakistani rule with American financial and technical support, the construction of the Kaptai dam flooded 400km of Chakma land in what is now Bangladesh, even submerging the Chakma royal palace. Today, tourists in Bangladesh take boat rides over these beautiful waters, mostly unaware of the trauma submerged below the reflective surface that mirrors the sky. To the local indigenous Chakma people, this lake is the site of a heartbreaking event called Bor Porong, or “the great exodus.” Over 100,000 people from about 18,000 families, mostly from indigenous communities, were displaced, resulting in the forced migration to neighboring India of over 35,000 Chakmas and Hajongs. Dams and flooding are a shared weapon of violence against indigenous people all over the world.  Roaja’s installation imagines people from the Chittagong Hill Tracts raising the submerged palace from the bottom of the lake back up to the surface, a promise of hope for renewed ways of life after the flood. Part of the artist’s making process involved interviewing multiple generations of indigenous people who remember life before the dam, and also younger generations who have only heard about life before the dam via storytelling and oral tradition. 

Roaja has an interconnected performance, painting and drawing practice that highlights the challenging social and political landscape of Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts. His works are tied to the experiences of indigeneity, often emphasizing the deep and symbiotic connection of indigenous people with their land as well as the fight for recognition and rights. His work is an empowering demand preservation of minority cultures.

b.1973, Khagrachari; lives and works in Khagrachari

Kasper Bosmans

No Water, 2019/2023

Instruction based mural

Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery

No Water refers to the descending level of the ground water table, otherwise known as the boundary between water-saturated ground and unsaturated ground. This descent is partly the result of sand mining and the proliferation of concrete architecture. These works were produced according to the instructions of the artist Kasper Bosmans, which are always the same: the uppermost segment of the painting must be blue, the lowest one brown. Specific hues of each color are chosen by people who have a connection with the place where the work is being shown, in this case, nine people who have been working on Dhaka Art Summit since 2012. They also determine the height of the horizon, but this may never be situated precisely in the middle of the wall, giving rise to playful involvement to create a portrait of Dhaka Art Summit and its surroundings. This is part of a series of instruction based, participatory works found across the Summit. 

Bosmans is a storyteller; a keen observer of the many ways in which images probe the boundaries between nature and fiction, art and craft. From an intuitive, playful, as well as anthropological approach, he takes the remnants of local traditions, tales, and mythological iconography to speak about global questions in today’s world. 

b. 1990, Lommel; lives and works in Brussels

Matt Copson

Age of Coming, 2021

Laser animation with 16 minute audio soundtrack

Samdani Art Foundation Collection 

Formed by a laser machine that flickers in nearly every color, a naked baby created by the artist Matt Copson faces storms inside and outside of his shapeshifting body, which sings to us about his existential conflicts. This work is inspired by the iconic self-help book Diary of a Baby that follows the journey of a baby discovering the world step by step until he turns four years old. The baby expresses how he feels hunger as a storm: “A storm threatens. The light turns metallic. The march of clouds across the sky breaks apart. Pieces of sky fly off in different directions. The wind picks up force, in silence. There are rushing sounds, but no motion. The wind and its sound have separated. Each chases after its lost partner in fits and starts. The world is disintegrating. Something is about to happen.” Copson’s ravenous baby swallows a chair, then a gun, then a plane and grows larger and larger until disintegrating into an abstract work of art. Copson talks about this shift: “The baby wants it all: every color possible, to grow and grow and this is impossible. The laser projector is a mechanical device and the growing density of information eventually means that it can no longer even depict an image and becomes a barrage of spinning broken lines.” This work captures the struggle of trying to obtain something impossible, and the beauty that can be found in these existential quests. 

Based on theatrical elements and artistic tropes, Copson broaches notions of contemporaneity, abstraction, automation, recurrence, the eternal, and the strange in his work as an artist and a director. He uses elements ranging from classical philosophy to traditional folklore to introduce familiar characters, sometimes partially sketched or whose process of abstraction is incomplete. Generally expressed in the form of a monologue, these characters are perceived through perpetual questioning as to their state or present situation, always hard to pin down and impossible to resolve.

b. 1992, Oxford; lives and works in London and Los Angeles

Miet Warlop 

Chant For Hope, 2022-2023

Participatory performance 

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation in partnership with KANAL, Centre Pompidou, Brussels with support from the Flemish Region of Belgium and EUNIC

Inspired by the history of the language movement and movement of language in Bangladesh, visitors get swept into the trance conjured by a participatory dancing sculpture which injects energy to propel makers (of history) past exhaustion. Chant for Hope is an incantatory ritual that aims, literally and figuratively, to convey hope for a better world. The performers act as cheerleaders and freedom fighters, injecting energy and meaning into the struggle for life. A group of performers sculpt a series of words in Bengali by flooding molds with plaster, which become moving sculptures that can be rearranged and find new meaning as they are passed between the performers and the audience.  The audience thus becomes a participant: spectators are asked to take all the words out into the 'real' world, into the street and/or into their homes. The content of Chant for Hope thus spreads, literally, as a critical reflection and as an invitation to connect ourselves more with each other, as human beings. 

Warlop’s work is about making the static-dynamic and making the dynamic-static. She treats art as an experience, like ritual concerts or objects animated by choreography. She works in cycles rather than in projects and believes in the attitude that accompanies an idea, using a combination of performance, choreography, theater, and sculpting skills to make her shows. Her work amplifies the dynamics of personal relationships that are created between memories, skin, objects and sounds. 

b. 1978, Torhout; lives and works in Brussels


Afrah Shafiq

Where do the Ants Go?, 2022-2023

Immersive game installation

This project was created as part of the "to-gather" international collaboration of Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council with curatorial support of Diana Campbell, Fernanda Brenner, Chus Martinez, Daniel Baumann, and Iaroslav Volovod 

Where do the Ants Go? is a large-scale sculpture of an anthill that the audience can enter and interact with a colony of ants that live within it. Using real time inputs the “players” within the anthill make choices that affect the behavior of the individual ants and the collective outcome of the colony. The anthill is imagined as a real-life rendering from the game Minecraft, using the logic of voxels and referencing immersive environments, speculative futures and web3.0; the ant colony set within it translates ant behaviors from the natural world into algorithms and data sets. As more and more of human existence continues to play out in the virtual space where conversation is mediated by seemingly invisible algorithms, the installation creates a meeting ground between the physical and digital, the algorithm and consciousness, the virtual world and the natural world and offers a space to step back, observe patterns and perhaps even re-set.

Shafiq uses the process of research as an artistic playground. She intertwines archival findings, history, memory, folklore and fantasy to create a speculative world born of remix culture. Her work moves across various mediums drawing from the handmade language of traditional folk forms and connecting them to the digital language of the Internet and video games. When she is not glued to her computer she makes glass mosaics.

b. 1989, Bangalore; lives and works in Goa

Ahmet Öğüt 

Balanced Protest Banners, 2022-2023

Bamboo stilts, Digital Print, Performance

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, and Latvian Center for Contemporary Art with support from SAHA and Goethe Institut Bangladesh and the curatorial contribution of iLiana Fokianaki

Performers walk across the South Plaza on bamboo stilts that are both support structures and also protest banners highlighting difficult-to-find goods and commodities in Bangladesh such as cherry blossoms, avocados, blueberries and kiwis. This precarious balancing act invites us to consider what we might take for granted as we exert ourselves in the world. Bangladeshis in villages, as well as Indians in similar climatic contexts, address their rising water levels by creating tools for living similar in form to these stilts, finding new ways to walk on unstable ground.Öğüt is a sociocultural initiator, artist, and lecturer. Working across a variety of media, including photography, video, and installation, the artist often uses humor and small gestures to offer his commentary on serious and/or pressing social and political issues. Öğüt is regularly collaborating with people from outside of the art world to create shifts in collective perception of society.

B. 1981, Diyarbakır; lives and works in Istanbul, Amsterdam and Berlin

This work is also part of Very Small Feelings

Antony Gormley

TURN, 2022-2023

A 2.5km line of bamboo 

Commissioned by Samdani Art FoundationCourtesy of the artist and Xavier Hufkens 

Bamboo, the world’s largest grass, can be a metaphor for generative transfers of energy in Bangladesh. It grows high out of the earth powered by photosynthesis and when harvested, is bundled and tied together to form large rafts that float down Bangladesh’s many rivers, then unbundled and transferred to construction sites across the country to be transformed into architecture, a kind of second-body for human and non-human bodies to dwell in. Antony Gormley and a team of Bangladeshi artisans have transformed 2.5km of bamboo into a drawing in space that could also be seen as a sculpture or as a second skin for the visitors passing through it. It is an energy field, exploding like unfurled springs and seemingly boundless orbits, a line transformed into an infinite loop without beginning or end. It makes us think about time, which can be perceived as linear in some contexts, circular in others. Our bodies, and how they move in making drawings, sculptures, and architecture are interconnected in their role in world-building. How can we create and collaborate on the same scale that society has the capacity to destroy? Continuing along the shapeshifting journey of bamboo in Bangladesh, the work will be recycled into other forms after Dhaka Art Summit is over. 

Antony Gormley is widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space. His work has developed the potential opened up by sculpture through a critical engagement with both his own body and those of others in a way that confronts fundamental questions of where human beings stand in relation to nature and the cosmos. Gormley continually tries to identify the space of art as a place of becoming in which new behaviors, thoughts and feelings can arise. He studied meditation in South Asia in the 1970s prior to attending art school, and this is his first return to the region since 1974. 

b. 1950, London; lives and works in London 

Ashfika Rahman 

বেহুলা আজকাল (Behula These Days), 2022-2023

Community-led photography and textile installation

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist

বেহুলা আজকাল (Behula These Days) is a collaborative community project articulating the violence against women around in one of the most flood-prone areas in Bangladesh, which is also the birthplace of the mythological figure Behula.  Behula is the protagonist of one of the most popular epic mythological love stories in Bengal - Behula and Lakhindar - written between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. In the plot line, Lakhindar (Behula’s husband) lost his life on their wedding night through the curse of the Hindu goddess of snakes, Manasa. In the hopes that a victim of a snake bite could miraculously be brought back to life, it was customary that the dead body would float down the river rather than be cremated. Behula accompanied her husband’s dead body on a raft towards heaven, facing many dangers and praying to Manasa and all of the gods to revive her husband. Once in heaven, Behula pleased all of the gods with her beautiful and enchanting dancing and earned her husband's life back. Behula’s sacrifice and isolation from society are regarded as the epitome of a loving and loyal wife in Bengali culture. 

This popular mythological love story is translated through the lens of feminism in Ashfika Rahman’s work. Idolizing such a sacrifice and celebrating such isolation through the reverence of Behula, while villainizing Manasa (the goddess of the snakes) who needed devotion from a man in order to reach heaven, speaks to ongoing systemic violence against women. Behula and the many women she represents float without agency on their own lifes’ paths. Rahman’s epic investigative project traces the footprints of Behula through the riverline and landscapes mentioned in the epic story. She collected stories of violence against women on the river bank, which is isolated and almost impossible to navigate during the many floods there. The women illustrated their stories on their own portraits displayed here, which reconsider this epic love story from the lens of contemporary reality. Death rates during floods do not have gender balance; more women die in floods, speaking to the gendered nature of climate-based violence, which is tied to societal beliefs about a woman’s role at home. 

Rahman’s practice explores and experiments with photography, using media ranging from historical techniques like 19th-century printmaking to documentary approaches and contemporary media. Photography is the predominant medium that she uses to express her views on complex systemic social issues such as violence, rape, and religious extremism – often overlooked by the administrative machinery of the state. In her practice, she creates a conceptual timeline of the stereotypes of victims, repeated across history, notably in regard to minority communities in Bangladesh. 

b. 1988, Dhaka; lives and works in Dhaka

Bhasha Chakrabarti

নরম অতিক্রমণ (Tender Transgressions), 2022-2023

Site Specific Installation Made from Jute, Bamboo, and Tropical Plants

Commissioned and Produced by Samdani Art Foundation with support from EMK Center, Dhaka Courtesy of the artist and Experimenter 

নরম অতিক্রমণ (Tender Transgressions) is a site specific installation which explores the concept of Bonna as the feminine form of bonno, meaning wild, untameable, and excessive, all words historically used to denigrate women’s sexuality. The large-scale work transforms nine columns that structurally hold up the building of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy into a jungle of anthropomorphic feminine forms. It materially references Navapatrika, a Hindu practice common in Bengal, where plants are wrapped in sarees and worshiped as embodiments of the goddess Durga. Here, the plant being venerated is jute: essential to the economy of Bangladesh, dependent on excessive rainfall, and commonly used as a fabric support in Western painting. This transformation of rigid architectural supports into supple caryatids of cloth and crop, breaks down binaries of strong and soft, functional and decorative, necessity and excess. 

Chakrabarti engages with art-making as a process of mending, which is primarily associated with clothing, and then extended to relationships. As opposed to other forms of repair, traditionally undertaken by men in a professional capacity, mending is largely non-transactional and often delegated to women. Working across painting, weaving, sound, and installation, her work explores how art can function as a mode of public discourse rather than being a self-contained discipline, bringing feminist ways of being to the fore in a patriarchal world.

b. 1991, Honolulu; lives and works in New Haven

Bishwajit Goswami 

ঋতু, 2022-2023

Mural and interactive performance  

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist

The word  ঋতু(Reetu), meaning ‘seasons’, is also a commonly used first name for Bengali girls, culturally and symbolically related to the name ‘বন্যা (Bonna)’. Bangladesh has six seasons (and some would argue “had” as climate change has made two of the seasons difficult to recognize anymore) each harkening a particular mood, feelings and cultural practices. (Human) life can also be measured in seasons. Goswami connects these personal stories of land, nature and seasons with words, pigment and touch. Fragments of memory enable a sensorial, intimate exchange of feelings and words to take place with the artist, and within the self, manifesting in moving drawings connecting our inner and outer worlds.

Bishwajit Goswami began his career as a figurative, hyper-realist painter. Inspired by the Bangla language and its written formation, the artist has been breaking down and rearranging and reconstructing his artistic language into abstract forms and shapes. Institution building and education is also a core-part of his creative practice as the founder of Brihatta Art Foundation and as a professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. 

B. 1981, Netrakona; lives and works in Dhaka

Roman Ondák

Measuring the Universe, 2007/2023

For the whole duration of the exhibition, gallery attendants offer to the exhibition visitors marking their height on the gallery walls along with their first name and the date on which the measurement was taken.

Performance, felt-tip pens, guards, audienceFrom the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

As we grow(up), our scale to the world and our understanding of time changes. Flood lines and people are measured in similar ways; vertical markings on walls. Measuring the Universe extends out of Roman Ondák’s interest in blurring lines between art and everyday life, and using simple means to create complex images that can metaphorically compete with cutting-edge technology. Ondák got the idea to create this work after frequently taking measurements of his sons’ heights at home as they were growing up, and he created this instruction-based work by extrapolating this personal, intimate act into an exhibition space where guards write visitors’ measurements on the wall, creating the presence of people into a physical object. The work begins with a blank, white, room, but over time, a thick black band of names will begin to encircle the walls, almost resembling a galaxy where each black mark of a visitor’s name could resemble a star. These marks are part of registering the passage of time, the public experience of Dhaka Art Summit.

Ondák’s artistic interventions blur the boundaries between art and the everyday, challenging traditional hierarchies between artists and non-artists, the artwork and the spectator and between public and private domains. In presenting elements of everyday life in an art context, new perspectives on social relations and human experience arise. Ondak’s relational art practice breaks with the traditional idea of the art object - the constructed social environment becomes the art. Choosing immersion over representation, he invites viewers, friends and family, to play a vital role in his work, enlisting their own creativity in the process of following his instructions. The result is a controlled study of collective discovery and imagination.

b. 1966, Zilina; lives and works in Bratislava

Sumayya Vally 

They who brings rain, brings life, 2022-2023

Ceramic vessels activated by performance

Performance 7pm daily

Commissioned by Samdani Art FoundationCo-curated by Diana Campbell and Sean Anderson as an overlay of “To Enter the Sky” on the 2nd floor of DAS 

oletha imvula uletha ukuphila Translation: “They who brings rain, brings life” IsiZulu proverb

Wielding the comings of rain is a tradition practiced by cultures across geographies. To possess the power to command rainfall is by inference possessing the power to dictate the flow of the natural cycle and climatic conditions. Across Southern Africa, rain-making rituals are directed towards royal ancestors because they were believed to have control over rain and other natural phenomena. One of these rare and powerful individuals is the Moroka of the Pedi tribe in South Africa: the traditional rain-making doctor. Here, a series of fired and unfired clay vessels are assembled as a temporal space to hold gatherings. Over the course of DAS, a series of performances which draw on the traditions of rain-making and harvest are performed in the space where the hands that formed the pots also work to un-form them. The rituals include the use of water, which allows the un-fired pots to dissolve over time, revealing areas and niches of gathering contained by the pots, as well as rhythmic drumming that evokes the sound of thunder at the end of each day.

Vally’s design, research and pedagogical practice is searching for expression for hybrid identities and territory, particularly for African and Islamic conditions. Her design process is often forensic, and draws on the aural, the performative and the overlooked as generative places of history and work.

B. 1990, Pretoria; lives and works in London 


Antora Mehrukh Azad

Ground Zero, 2022-2023

Oil on Canvas

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist

Ground Zero is a large-scale landscape painting that depicts the modern relationship between nature and humans. The work depicts how the natural Bangladeshi landscape has gradually been subdued and replaced by citified objects such as traffic signs, poles, and neon colors. It is a stylized, exaggerated rendition of common Bangladeshi flood scenes. Bangladesh is suffering from severe floods and rising sea levels, more extreme than in the past as a result of global warming. With the next flood perpetually around the corner, Bangladesh is frequently referred to as “ground zero for climate change.” The bright neon pink water body symbolizes how this situation is not entirely natural but rather manmade, and how silently Bangladeshis are metaphorically treading water as the sea level rises, finding new ways to survive.

Azad’s work is based on the modern connection between nature and humanity. Exaggerating the increased toxicity in this relationship with an overtly artificial color palette, her paintings reveal how urban life is gradually taking over the natural world. 

b. 1994, Dhaka; lives and works in Dhaka

Ayesha Sultana

Breath Count, 2019

Mark-making on clay-coated paper

Samdani Art Foundation Collection 

Nightfall, 2022

Acrylic and oil on canvas

Samdani Art Foundation Collection 

Untitled, 2023


Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation with support from Experimenter

Courtesy of the artist and Experimenter 

Untitled, 2023


Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation with support from Experimenter

Courtesy of the artist and Experimenter 

Ayesha Sultana’s recent work negotiates space and distance by measuring the space between things – such as the breaks between taking breaths – marking the rhythm of the day. She contemplates the relationship between her hand, her body, and the rest of the landscape surrounding her, making visible the motion of rhythm without being seen. Through a body of scratch drawings on clay-coated paper, Breath Count are personal explorations of movement, mark-making and corporeality. Ayesha reveals staccato patterns that represent a delicate inward probe of her own body using count, distance, motion and removal in breath in these works. Like the marble lines in Louis Kahn’s parliament building, which mark the labor of a day’s work casting concrete, Sultana’s marks measure the labor of internal bodily systems, which are related to the toxicity of the world outside which are internalized as we breathe. Floor-based aluminum sculptures seem to freeze a flood of acid rain, holding toxicity back from its onward journey. A painting depicting the sea and a seemingly infinite space beyond can be seen as a portrait of the artist’s personal emotions as well as her constant return to looking at water as an amorphous, shape-shifting medium that holds more than what is apparent on its surface. 

Sultana works with drawing, painting, sculpture,and sound, through processes that translate notions of space. She employs drawing as a tool of inquiry, through cutting, folding, stitching, layering, recording, and tracing applied to her series characterized by repetition, variation, and rhythm. Sultana often draws inspiration from architecture and the natural environment.

b. 1984 in Jessore; lives and works in Dhaka

Hana Miletic 

Materials, 2022

Hand-woven and hand-knit textile (azure blue cottolin, cobalt blue repurposed mercerised cotton, dark blue peace silk, deep blue organic cottolin, gold repurposed polyester, indigo washed rub- ber cotton, ocean blue organic linen, variegated blue recycled wood, and white peace silk)

Materials, 2022

Hand-woven (barley white organic cotton, beige repurposed mercerised cotton, brown variegated recycled wool, gold metal yarn, and organic hemp)

Materials, 2022

Hand-woven textile (beige peace silk, and white repurposed polyester)

Materials, 2022

Hand-woven and felt textile (copper repurposed polyester, dandelion yellow, dark brown, cinnamon brown, russet brown, and white-yellow raw wool)

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation with the support of the Flanders Region of Belgium

Courtesy of the artist, LambdaLambdaLambda and The Approach

The positions, shapes, colors and textures of repairs and transformations in public space, often made in quick and improvised ways on buildings, infrastructure and vehicles as the material consequences of economic and political actions, can also be seen as marks of gestures of care and repair. They are core to the way the artist Hana Miletić experiences the world, and these woven sculptures are based on repairs and transformations that the artist observed after a recent flood in her home country, Croatia. The museum quarter where the artist was exhibiting flooded due to heavy rainfall combined with rising sea levels. As is the case of Bangladesh, but admittedly to a lesser extent, this huge influx of water is the result of climate change. The world outside seeped into the museum world inside, a normally pristine, utopian space. The artist photographed the repairs and transformations made by the city authorities and the individual residents the morning after the flood, and based on these photographs, she produced these works for Dhaka. Through these hand-woven textiles, Miletić is sharing in Bangladesh the soft power of care and resilience from her homeland, and proposing a dialogue between these two geographically remote yet familiar practices of repair.

Miletić reflects on issues of representation and social reproduction by making linkages between photography and weaving. The artist models her handwoven textiles after her photographs that document vernacular, often do-it-yourself, repairs in public space. Remaking these repairs allows Miletić to understand and participate in the complexity of society, striving to tell alternative feminist stories of technology and progress stemming from the loom, the precursor of the computer today. Miletić uses the weaving process – which requires considerable time and dedication – as a way to counteract certain economic and social conditions at work, such as acceleration, standardization and transparency.

b. 1982, Zagreb; lives and works in Brussels and Zagreb

Krishna Reddy

River, 1959

Whirlpool, 1963

Samdani Art Foundation Collection

Krishna Reddy’s prints consider elements of nature and his life experiences in diverse landscapes. Early representational works including Insect (1952) and Fish (1952) explore the physical structure of those animals, physically bringing about the image by mixing liquid inks of different densities together at the same time, freezing them in time by printing them on a single plate. Through the 1950s, his works became progressively more abstract, and River (1959) refers to the movement of its subject but avoids direct representation. Reddy’s prints of the 1960s reflect a strong sense of dynamism, as Wave (1963) and Whirlpool (1963) each reveal the immediacy of water in motion, and through color variation and modulation of line show the fleeting collision of water with air and light.

Reddy was born in rural Andhra Pradesh, India and educated at the idyllic Kala Bhavan at Santiniketan. As a student of pioneering artist Nandalal Bose at Santiniketan in the mid 1940s, Reddy absorbed India’s great heritage of figuration by traveling to historical sites including Ajanta and drawing the goddesses represented at the caves. He later studied sculpture under famed British artist Henry Moore, whose work shaped Reddy’s abstracted figurative sculptures. Reddy then moved to Paris where he joined Stanley William Hayter’s intaglio printmaking studio, Atelier 17. He approached the intaglio plate from the perspective of a sculptor, lending a sculptural quality to his printmaking throughout his career. At Atelier 17, Reddy invented the technique of simultaneous color printmaking by experimenting with the use of several colors of different viscosities on a single plate. Reddy is best known for this innovation, and it can be seen in the fluid layering of colors in the works on view here, especially from the 1960s onwards.

b. 1929, Nandanoor; d. 2018, New York

Lala Rukh

Mirror Image II 1, 2 & 3, 2011

Graphite on carbon paper

Samdani Art Foundation Collection

Gazing deep into the dark black carbon paper, subtle, almost flickering glimpses of water’s movement on a moonlit night reveal themselves to the viewer. In the words of the artist and art historian Mariah Lookman, the subtle graphite markings appear “like phosphates that are able to absorb and reflect back barely visible traces of light. The marks one can see are like those signs of life that are reflected back onto the paper by hand of the artist, who [was] living through perhaps the bleakest of times in Pakistan’s history. Given the high level of violence that is perpetrated on innocent civilians, the darkness in the work speaks volumes of the horror and tragedy that is witnessed in everyday life. And yet, in the fine lines against the darkness of the paper, I can see signs are still symbolic of hope, of anticipation, expectation, and a force and belief against pure forces of nihilism.”

One of the foremost feminist activists of South Asia, Rukh’s contribution to art and culture spans far beyond the visual arts and into politics, music, and countless other parts of civic life in Pakistan and the wider region. Her works often chart horizons and draw together the waves we experience in nature as sight and the waves we experience within as sound, bridging inner and outer worlds and asking for heightened sense of perception from the viewer.

b. 1948, Lahore; d. 2017, Lahore

Lucas Arruda 

Untitled (from the Deserto-Modelo series), 2018

Untitled (from the Deserto-Modelo series), 2020

Untitled (from the Deserto-Modelo series), 2020

Untitled (from the Deserto-Modelo series), 2021

oil on canvas

Courtesy of the artist and Mendes Wood DM who also provided support for this presentation

The first image of Earth taken from outer space, Blue Marble, captures the image of a cyclone over the Bay of Bengal; it is fitting that Arruda’s cyclones find their debut here in Bangladesh.“Light constitutes an essential aspect of Lucas Arruda’s paintings, even though it’s never as much a representation of light as a representation of the presence of light; indirect, subtle, glowing not shining. Only a hint of the sunlight, whose rays struggle through dark clouds above the seas, is nervously reflected by countless waves. Or are these foreboding images of impending climate change, of toxic skies and a world void of inhabitants?” 

“The small format, the repetitiveness of Arruda’s imagery may strike one as minimalistic, yet it is anything but mechanical. There’s a physical dimension: Arruda presses his brush into the paint, roughens it up. Turned and turned while pressed, the brushes move in circles and in angular strokes. They scratch the paint. The handle of the brush incises the paint, cutting the surface up like with a knife or a burin, revealing what lies below the surface, revealing more than meets the eye. It reminds us on an etching and yet the quality of the engraved paint is not a one-dimensional image as in a print. The landscape visibly becomes a painted construct. The hair of the brush transforms into bristle scratching the wet painting away in a manner that is as forceful as it is elegant. Arruda’s subtractive method of painting is like writing a story in beautiful calligraphy, one that goes under the skin. Paintings that glow from within.* ”

*Text by Till-Holger Borchert edited by Diana Campbell

Between sky and earth, ethereal and solid, imagination and reality, Arruda presents meditations on the infinite drawn from his memory while highlighting the materiality of the media he works with, from paint to film. As we move above and below horizon lines, the artist puts us before atmospheres that are charged with visual as well as metaphysical questions.

b. 1983, São Paulo; lives and works in São Paulo 

Marina Tabassum

Photograph of Khudi Bari structure

photo credit: Asif Salman, 2022

Marina Tabassum and her team are among a generation of architects and designers who see the power of design as a generative resource; a significant creator of value even in the face of meager financial resources and plentiful contextual challenges. To quote her, a paucity of means should not limit hopes and dreams. The Khudi Bari (Bengali for ‘Tiny House’) is an example of this kind of thinking and action, a modular, mobile home that can be fabricated for as little as 500 dollars that provides elevation to save goods and lives in the wake of flash floods on tiny “desert islands” of sand known as 'chars' that are dotted precariously across the Bengal delta (and also visible in the background of SM Sultan’s painting exhibited next to this photograph). Land is fluid on the floodplains of Bangladesh, and these islands often break off and erode into the water, making it necessary for people to physically move their home as the land it was originally placed on may no longer exist. Tabassum’s design mimics the traditional language of architecture on the Bengal delta to create modular mobile housing units that are low cost, durable, and can be assembled and disassembled within a short time with minimum labor, taking advantage of a rigid space-frame structure. Khudi Bari reminds us to look to locally rooted knowledges to innovate solutions for uncertain futures. 

As an architect, Marina Tabassum has established a language of architecture that is contemporary to the world yet rooted to the place. She rejects the global pressure of consumer architecture, a fast breed of buildings that are out of place and context, pledging to root architecture to the place informed by climate and geography. She and her team engage in extensive research on the impacts of climate change in Bangladesh, working closely with geographers, landscape architects, planners and other allied professionals. The focus of her studio, Marina Tabbasum Architects (MTA) and the Foundation for Architecture and Community Equity (FACE) which she founded, also extends to the marginalized ultra-low income population of the country with a goal to elevate the environmental and living conditions of all people. 

b. 1968, Dhaka; lives and works in Dhaka 

Marzia Migliora

Paradoxes of Plenty #51(Big Wave), 2022-2023

Ink on paper

Courtesy of the Artist and Lia Rumma

Commissioned by Samdani Art FoundationPresentation realized with the support of ARAV s.r.lSilvian Heach, SH, John Richmond, JR kids, Trussardi Kids, Marcobologna

Marzia Migliora’s ongoing series of drawings, I Paradossi dell’abbondanza (Paradoxes of Plenty, 2017-2023), is a continuation of the artist’s studies over the last years reflecting on the relationship between food production, commodities and surplus value of the capitalist system and the exploitation of natural, animal and human resources. A visual exploration of the paradoxes that govern consumer society, this series outlines the limitations of an anachronistic model antithetical to present-day environmental and social emergencies.

Reflecting on the dramatically visible consequences of climate change in Bangladesh, such as frequent flooding, tropical cyclones, riverbank erosion, and high salinity levels in groundwater, Paradoxes of Plenty #51 is a large-scale drawing depicting the rush of a giant wave that reveals the depths of a sea. Ecosystems of a multi-species universe are animated in this work by schools of fish realized using the gyotaku technique, used by Japanese fishermen in the nineteenth-century. This technique is a direct printing method that involves fish covered in cuttlefish ink as a matrix imprinted directly on Washi rice paper. The presence of fishing nets lying on the bottom of the work points to the consequences of intensive fishing and the phenomenon of ghost nets, which constitute 85% of the plastic waste in the world's marine waters.

In the metaphorical sense, the words ‘Big Wave’ in the title also refer to the surfing practice of looking for the perfect wave. The artist pays homage to Ayesha, a young surfer from Cox's Bazar, who defied social norms and dared to surf in the ocean, becoming the subject of the award winning Bangladeshi documentary Nodorai (I'm not Afraid).

Marzia Migliora uses a wide range of media including photography, video, sound, performance, installations and drawing to focus on everyday life. She investigates themes like identity and desire, delving into present and past history and putting memory into relation with places and spaces. Her projects are like questions that trigger the active engagement of the observer, who becomes the protagonist without whom the work cannot be resolved. The artist’s goal is to propose an experience that can be lived and shared by the audience.

B. 1972, Alessandria; lives and works in Turin

Michael John Whelan

And they did live by watchfires 1, 2020

pigment print on paper, 50 x 40cm, edition 1/3

And they did live by watchfires 2, 2020

pigment print on paper, 200 x 160cm, edition 1/3

Courtesy of the artist and Grey Noise

These analog photographs explore light pollution, specifically skyglow, as an eco-marker of humanity’s unbridled global population growth and subsequent effects on the environment. Today over half the world’s population live in cities. According to research from the UN, by 2050 2.5 billion more people will be living in cities. Michael John Whelan has been documenting urban densification from an array of locations (including Dubai, Vienna and Dublin) and elevations, focussing on the abstract visual gradient caused by the artificial light refracting in the night sky. The light sources themselves are excluded from the image, focusing only on the effects. Abstraction becomes a tool for accessibility and contemplation on how our ways of life affect the circadian rhythms of the planet. 

Working across film, video, photography and sculpture, Whelan’s practice asserts the landscape as a place where traumatic narratives overlap with the evidence of anthropogenic processes. Whelan undertakes extensive long-term projects documenting elusive but ever-present phenomena like light pollution or darkness. Animals, people or places, like the last Irish wolf, a young marine biologist struggling with the effects of climate change, or the world’s most radioactive ocean, are given agency within his work.

b. 1977, Dublin; lives and works in Berlin

Pol Taburet

Out the womb, 2022

Parade, 2022

alcohol based paint and raw pigment 

Courtesy of the artist and Mendes Wood DM who also provided support for this presentation with alongside Alliance Francaise de Dacca

For millennia, humans have invoked their minds and bodies through prayers, rituals, songs, and dances to summon rain from the sky. These bold, spiritually charged paintings depict that age-old human desire to extend our power of movement on earth to universes above us. Ghostly figures in the foreground dance and pulse with the energy of thunder and lightning inside of them to make it rain and bring about abundance. There is something haunting, even sinister about these figures, who seem to conjure dark magic. In the language of hip-hop, the term “make it rain” refers to a hypothetical relationship between the rapper and the devil invented by fans, where the rapper conjures the devil in a quest to make money manifest itself as if falling from the sky. 

Taburet’s work brings a complex range of reference including his Caribbean background and its syncretic voodoo traditions and belief systems, wider contemporary culture, and Western classical painting. He developed his unique painting style by incorporating the use of airbrushing alongside traditional brush painting with acrylic colors, symbolic of his work which mixes the old and the new. Working across painting, sculpture, installation, and performance, his work speaks of life and death, and the passage from one state to the other. 

b. 1997, Paris; lives and works in Paris

Rithika Merchant

Transtidal, 2022

Gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist and Tarq who also provided support for this presentation 

River deltas are environments, gateways between rivers and seas that offer challenges and opportunities, where the conditions for sustaining life change throughout the days and seasons. Deltas are cradles of life and tell a story of evolution from the sea, by the river, to the land, possibly representing what the future holds. We now have to go backwards as the sea gains ground and makes land hostile. Like the mudskippers floating in the foreground of this work, we too will have to learn to be amphibious as waters rise. This watercolor is inspired by the nomadic river based Bede community of Bangladesh. They reap the benefits of water as a life giver and have adapted to overcome the more destructive aspects of the water. As waters rise, their amphibious way of living on the river is something many of us may have to adopt on our ever flooding planet in order to survive. 

Figures from Bangla lore such as crocodile djinns and snakes appear in the work, speaking to fertility, prosperity, and abundance tied to river based life. Snakes are a source of livelihood for the Bede community who earn income from snake charming, snake catching and snake selling, generating possibility from a place others may cower away from in fear. Both the Goliath Heron and the Peregrine Falcon inhabit the mangrove and can be seen as sacred animals integral to the ecosystem, immortalized here as constellations and stars reflecting in the winding rivers connecting the desert to the mountains to the sea to the sky. 

Merchant is fascinated with navigation. She is inspired by how old maps and celestial charts are folded and stored, and how they are built up with water-based paint on paper, transformed by exposure to the sun and the elements over time, appearing very different to us now than when they were originally made. After she finishes her paintings, she folds them up into geometric shapes and unfolds them to create and reveal a narrative of the paper’s journey. She imagines that in the future, someone might come across her folded drawings in a book or in a drawer and when they unfold them, they would find strange and otherworldly maps, with creatures and clues from another time.

b.1986 Mumbai, lives and works in Barcelona and Mumbai

Safiuddin Ahmed

Flood, 1994

Flood 8, 2004

Gusty Wind, 2005

Bare Trees-2, 2004

Charcoal on paper

The Cry, 1980

Copper engraving print

Courtesy of the Shilpaguru Safiuddin Ahmed Memorial

Storms have eyes and eyes have storms. Safiuddin Ahmed emblazoned the relationship between Bangladeshis and the storms plaguing them from inside their bodies and outside through floods and wars in his iconic prints and lesser-known, haunting charcoal drawings, which are rarely exhibited. Pulsing with emotion, these works speak to Bangladesh’s ongoing cry for freedom from both natural and manmade violence. Their symbolism speaks to the entanglement of human and non-human life on the Bengal delta.  

Ahmed helped raise the profile of printmaking in Bangladesh, a discipline often considered of secondary importance, by adopting it as his main medium and inspiring others to engage with the medium through his teaching practice. His work addresses the violence of water and the storms, literal and metaphorical, that Bengali people live with culturally. Many of his titles address strong emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear paired with symbolic scenes of water, fishing, and flooding. 

b. 1922, Calcutta; d. 2012 in Dhaka

Sana Shahmuradova-Tanska

The Womb of the Land, 2022

People of De-occupied Territories, 2022

Oil on Canvas

Courtesy of the Artist 

Voluptuous female forms keep a violent sky at bay, feeding and fuelling a counter-apocalypse with their life-giving energy. Sana Shahmuradova-Tanska has been painting harbingers of life in the midst of war-torn Ukraine, depicting the role that women play in keeping the world alive in the midst of man-made horrors, both today, and also historically in her homeland with countless injustices including man-made famine, the Holodomor, which parallel histories in Bangladesh when it, too, was a colonially occupied territory.

As a visual artist, Shahmuradova-Tanska she mainly works with graphics and painting, searching for the barely explored roots of her ancestry through collective and personal archetypes. Women are the main protagonists in her work, which is also inspired by her experience training in ballet and studying drawing with an elderly Jewish artist who introduced her to Jewish frescoes, among other references.

b. 1996, Odessa; lives and works in Kyiv

SM Sultan

Untitled, 1987

Natural dyes on unprimed jute canvas

Samdani Art Foundation Collection 

While South Asian art history describes him as a landscape painter, S.M. Sultan is remembered in Bangladesh for his energetic paintings of bulbous-muscled farmers made after 1975. These large-scale paintings, primarily made with natural pigments on unprimed jute canvases, celebrate the strength of Bengali peasants, both male and female, in their struggle against colonial and ecological disasters. Famine had been plaguing the country on and off from the era of the British Raj until just the year before Sultan first painted these icons of physical might. In this context, his depiction of the weak and downtrodden as invincible forces cultivating the future of Bangladesh can be seen as subversive. Small islands, known as chars, dot the landscape in the background of this painting, an integral part of the Bangladeshi landscape. While still violent, the storms and floods impacting Bangladesh’s landscape during Sultan’s time are different from those experienced now, yet architects and designers are turning toward traditional solutions from Bangladesh’s wetlands to imagine ways to survive on wetter and wetter land.  

Sultan’s work as both an artist and an educator highlight the importance of rural culture in the collective identity of Bangladesh. After traveling extensively as a celebrated artist both internationally and within South Asia, Sultan retreated from urban life, moving to his home village of Narail, where he founded the Shishu Shwarga art school. His devotion to rural art education has had a lasting legacy, inspiring many initiatives to promote personal growth outside of urban centers through art. 

b. 1923, Narail; d. 1994, Jessore

Veronika Hapchenko

Shelter, 2022

Acrylic and Ink on Canvas

Samdani Art Foundation Collection

This painting is Veronika Hapchenko’s contemporary interpretation of the mosaic Windfighter, a depiction of a bird fighting the wind that was created by the legendary artist Alla Horska in 1967 for Mariupol’s restaurant Ukraina, recently destroyed by shellings in July, 2022. This work commences a new series by the artist devoted to the topic of Soviet avant-garde mosaics and murals from the 1960s and 1970s located on the territory of Ukraine. These works of art once spoke of a bright, peaceful future of the republic, and are now being destroyed in the course of the Russian invasion and bombardment of Ukrainian cultural heritage sites. A first glance at this painting reveals two figures of long-haired women flanking a mysterious shape placed in the center of the scene. Upon a closer look, one notices that the women’s strands of hair form a roof over the heads of the multitude of figures whose faces emerge from the body outlines. With silhouettes infinitely looped in the composition, it is difficult for the viewer to establish the number of people who are sheltered in this painting. Like Bengal in the 1940s, Ukraine also suffered a man-made famine in the 1930s known as the Holodomor. Responding to violent, ongoing histories of oppression, Hapchenko, as well as the iconic Bangladeshi painter SM Sultan, paint figures with bulging muscles of epic strength, refusing to be reduced to skin and bones by occupying forces and rising up to protect their communities and ways of life. 

Coming from a stage design background that migrated into painting and object making, Hapchenko’s practice has a strong research foundation. Looking to philosophical theses, cultural archives and oral history in her work, the artist traces legends and taboos surrounding revolutionary artists and political gurus to deconstruct and rethink the cultural tropes of the former USSR, which oscillated between esotericism and militarism throughout the twentieth century. This work was commissioned by KANAL- Centre Pompidou, Brussels to mark their inaugural feminist conference and garner support for the crisis in Ukraine. 

B. 1995, Kyiv, lives and works in Krakow 


Amit Dutta

Mother, Who Will Weave Now?, 2022

Digital AnimationCommissioned by MAP (Museum of Art and Photography) Bangalore on the Textile Collection of the Museum

Mother, Who Will Weave Now? attempts to sample and mirror the grand tapestry of Indian textile traditions and histories by interweaving snippets of Indian cloth on an editing table, using poetic elements of classical Indian literature sewn together with the words and motifs of the weaver-saint Kabir. 

Dutta attempts to create in film what he sees in painting, and describes all of his formal work as an attempt in that direction. Whether examining India’s contemporary artists, traditional weavers, or classical painters and the scholars who know their every brushstroke by heart, Dutta’s process-oriented films attest to the ardor of art history.

b.1977, Jamu; lives and works in Palampur

Kamruzzaman Shadhin

Irrelevant Field Notes, 2020-2023

Two-channel video, sound, sculptures

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist

This installation traces the seasons and cycles of indigenous rituals, poetry, myths, and practices that have been intertwined with agricultural landscapes and the act of cultivation in Bangladesh. Drawing from Kamruzzaman Shadhin’s childhood memories of deeply ingrained community practices rooted in agriculture, the work tells the story of how the move towards an extractive nature of cultivation has slowly rendered a disconnection in the intimate/intrinsic ties between humanity and land.

Incorporating sculptures, video, and sound and using materials related to land and rituals, Shadhin creates an imaginary landscape where the old rhymes, songs, fables, and other “irrelevant beings” hover around in apparent aimlessness, disconnected from the earth. They are displaced, but linger on as a distant and fragmented memory of a forgotten link, almost as if to stage a secret rebellion against this capitalist aggression on soil, water, and many ways of life. Made over a three-year period, this two-channel video chronicles the fields at different seasons through movements of masked figures who also appear in this space as various forms, linked through an immersive soundscape where the disappearing songs and rhymes come alive again. 

Shadhin's participatory practice incorporates installation, sculpture, performance, video and public art interventions. His work is shaped by long-term engagement with communities, exploring themes of the environment, migration and local history, and their connection to personal and collective memory. He usually works with locally sourced materials, drawing inspiration from the techniques and practices of the past to comment on the present. He is the founder of the Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts (f. 2001).

b. 1974, Thakurgaon; lives and works in Dhaka and Thakurgaon

Najmun Nahar Keya

বর্ণগীতি(Symphony of words), 2022-2023

Soft Sculptures Made from Antique Sarees

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist and Aicon Gallery

Bengali script seems to drip from the ceiling as rain, or flow through space like a river, similar to how the words of Khana have flowed across time in Bangladesh. Khana was a poet and an astrologer active in Bengal somewhere between the 9th and 12th centuries, and her verses are among the earliest compositions of lyrical Bengali verse and tied to wisdom gleaned from observing nature. According to legend, Khana attracted the attention of King Vikramaditya by solving problems that neither her husband nor her father-in-law, who were both court astronomers, could answer. Threatened by her knowledge and divinatory power, her father-in-law had her tongue cut off and forced her into exile. In another version, Khana cut off her own tongue to spare her father-in-law the shame of being upstaged by a woman. Both scenarios speak to how the fragility of male egos threatens the basic wellbeing of women.

Putting Khana’s words into the air as sayings and/or writing them into physical form as text, or inscribing them as an artwork as the artist Najmun Nahar Keya has, speaks to the power of orality and of collective memory to keep alive the wisdom that oppressive forces, such as patriarchy, have tried in vain to silence. These sayings that are still alive in rural Bangladesh today, known as Khanar Bachan (Khana’s words), are also a collective memory of climate, and how human behavior and weather could interact to produce fruitful results. These adages must have worked at some point; otherwise it is unlikely that they would have been carried across so many generations, but they don’t all make sense anymore as weather does not move over the lands in the same way it once did. Like the Tangail sarees that Keya and her elder sisters used to craft these sayings into soft sculptural form, they are likely to become obsolete as these generationally passed down wisdoms are at risk of being forgotten. 

Najmun Nahar Keya is primarily a painter, but also employs old photographs, gold gilding, drawing and printmaking, which she juxtaposes to create nostalgic settings. Having grown up in the old part of Dhaka, Keya draws her inspiration from the rapid social, economic and environmental changes happening in the area as a result of urbanization. She is interested in the duality of society focusing on lifestyle, culture, cityscapes, urban motifs, customs and architecture.

b. 1980 in Dhaka, lives and works in Dhaka

Miet Warlop

The Board II, 2014/2023


Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation with support from BGMEA

In a dynamic collaboration with female garment factory workers in Bangladesh, this performative installation challenges preconceptions of “who wears the pants” in society. A group of trunkless, armless, and headless pants in heels walk across the Dhaka Art Summit venue, taking stock of the artworks and the exhibition, laughing hysterically that anyone could take life so seriously and releasing their own irreverent gestures in paint for the audience to take in. 

Warlop’s work is about making the static-dynamic and making the dynamic-static. She treats art as an experience, like ritual concerts or objects animated by choreography. She works in cycles rather than in projects and believes in the attitude that accompanies an idea, using a combination of performance, choreography, theater, and sculpting skills to make her shows. Her work amplifies the dynamics of personal relationships that are created between memories, skin, objects and sounds. 

b. 1978, Torhout; lives and works in Brussels

Rana Begum

No.1234, 2022-2023

Fishing Net and Bamboo

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation with support from British Council BangladeshCourtesy of the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary

Inspired by the fragile drape of fishing nets and the filtered reflections of light across water, No. 1234 Net is closely connected to Begum’s childhood memories growing up in Bangladesh. The work sweeps above the visitors, layering veils of color and form. This organic expression marks a departure from Begum’s language of ordered geometric abstraction, growing in the space to create a dramatic, site specific installation.  

Begum utilizes industrial materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, copper, brass, glass, and wood in her minimalist sculptures and reliefs. Her contemplative works explore shifting interactions between geometry, color, and light, drawing inspiration from both the chance encounters of city life and the intricate patterns of Islamic art and architecture.

b. 1977, Sylhet; lives and works in London

Sahej Rahal

Black Origin, 2022

Digital Collage

Courtesy of the artist and Chatterjee and Lal

This series of images, rising from the artist’s imagined world of digital “storm sisters,” gathers a collection of digital collages conjured in collusion with AI-driven image generation programs. The images portend visions of an Earth exhausted of all human life. In this aftermath, new denizens populate the planet, petroleum-drenched beings, draped in the ruins and refuse of humankind. They rise under mangroves that rest over ramshackle housing complexes, highway lines, boulevards, banks, and bureaucratic enclaves, mounting insurrections on the other side of extinction.

Rahal’s work builds up mythology that he weaves together by drawing upon local legends and hidden histories and bringing them into conversation with the world today. He manifests his myth-making in sculptural installations, paintings, performances, films, and video games that he creates using found materials, ranging from digital technology as well as ephemera, found footage, salvaged furniture, and scrap material. 

b. 1988, Mumbai; lives and works in Mumbai

Shawon Akand

ধীরে বন্ধু ধীরে (Slow friend, be slow), 2022-2023

Hand-woven installation

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist

Turtles are icons for slowness, and slowness is necessary to keep certain cultural practices alive that fall outside of the speed necessary for mechanical reproduction. Shawon Akand worked with traditional jamdani weavers to transform turtle motifs in his paintings into a woven installation. ধীরে বন্ধু ধীরে (Slow friend, be slow) questions where in the fast paced world the need  for slow process work falls, and how slowness can be adapted in this timeline of urgency. When a slow-pace culture merges with a fast paced life, will any good come out of it? 

Akand’s body of work questions cultural norms with a critical perspective on social and political structures through painting, printmaking, installation, photography and video. He is passionate about empowering and amplifying the reach of Bangladeshi craftspeople in his creative work which extends from art making to curating to entrepreneurship. He founded the organization Jothashilpa which has been a melting pot where various categories of arts (such as fine art, folk art, native art, crafts etc.) are brought together to create a new art language rooted in cultural history. Since its inception Jothashilpa has been working with artisans and traditional folk artists living in rural as well as urban areas. This includes women who are experts in hand embroidery, jamdani weavers, cinema banner painters and rickshaw artists who he regularly collaborates with.

b. 1976, Kushtia; lives and works in Dhaka 

Tanya Goel 

Botanical Studies (Monsoon Flowers), 2020-2023

Crushed pigments on paper

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist and Nature Morte who also provided support for this presentation

Like flowers, we are formed by feelings that follow our relationship to sunlight and moonlight that illuminate our time on this planet, transforming what we perceive with our eyes into emotions that we feel with our hearts. The artist Tanya Goel has been meditatively studying flowers and the role that color plays in lived experience especially when it comes to the “laws of attraction.” As part of that process, she has been building what she refers to as “a collection of dust”; an archive of pigments that reminds her that color is ground. Ground: both in the sense of being a pulverized material (a physical process she actively engages with when making pigments), but also as coming from the surface beneath our feet (such as chalk and titanium dioxide). This series of Botanical Studies is inspired by monsoon flowers, forms that grow when the ground is wet and flooded with rainwater, just as beautiful as flowers blooming in the spring, but often overlooked when the global imagination around flowers relates to a world of “four seasons” that does not correspond with the seasons in South Asia. The artist perceived new universes when observing the pistils of flowers under a magnifying glass, zooming closer and closer in order to understand how the interplay of color around the reproductive parts of flowers serves to attract bees while also attracting our eyes. Goel reminds us that color is a powerful harbinger that life will go on in a duration that defies the limits of the optics of a human life-span.

Goel’s compositions, noted for their density and complexity, are mathematical formulas which are established and then violated, resulting in a balance between structure and chaos. The artist makes her own pigments from a diverse array of materials including charcoal, aluminum, concrete, glass, soil, mica, graphite and foils, many sourced from sites of architectural demolitions in and around New Delhi. She is interested in the textures of her pigments as well as their colors, which is a direct result of how they reflect light. 

b. 1985, New Delhi; lives and works in New Delhi


Anthony McCall 

Line Describing a Cone 2.0, 1973/2010

Digital projection with fog machine

Samdani Art Foundation Collection

Like watching the sunset, experiencing the work Line Describing a Cone requires a duration of 30 minutes to watch a white curve appear and transform in space. This iconic work by Anthony McCall, key to the artistic movement that opened up the visual arts towards cinema, was inspired by the artist observing how projections in a cinema hall - where dust swirling in the air interacts with light spewing from the projector - can produce sculpture-like effects. Here, a thin mist flows into the room, allowing the viewer to progressively see a large cone of light which simultaneously becomes a light sculpture that the audience can walk into, almost like a portal into another universe. This work is not just something to watch, it is a universe to be absorbed in and to participate in. The artist inverts the relationship between the projector and the audience. Here, the public faces the projector, not the movie, destroying the illusion of a moving image while opening up another kind of space of wonder. The process of the realization of the film becomes its content.

During the 1970s, Anthony McCall was one of a number of filmmakers who rejected the narrative demands of Hollywood cinema as well as the more abstract content of independent films, addressing instead the specific properties of the film medium itself–light, surface, projection, frames, and time. His work spans across drawing, installation, and performance, one of his preferred mediums.  He is an indispensable reference to a younger generation of artists working in video and installation, including Matt Copson whose work is found at the entrance of DAS. 

b. 1946, Saint Paul's Cray; lives and works in New York

Daniel Boyd

Untitled (GPS Coordinates), 2022-2023

Vinyl on glass

Co-commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation and Artspace

Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery with Curatorial Contributions from Alexie Glass-Kantor and Michelle Newton 

Daniel Boyd’s works often explore the ways in which Indigenous people and histories are seen, interpolated, and represented within a western or colonial vision. In this site-specific window installation, circular cut outs re-frame the views outside, transforming them into a web of illuminated dots, and spilling new light patterns across the gallery. As in Boyd’s artworks re-working colonial imagery, he uses a simple technique for mediating the audience’s vision to transform and reorient how things are seen. The work disrupts any kind of passive consumption of the landscape as usually framed by the architecture, while creating a new immersive visual spectacle. These circular forms are used to perform a complex re-envisioning wherein dark matter becomes part of a total image, connecting a multitude of flashes of detail beyond.

Daniel Boyd is an Indigenous Australian multidisciplinary artist. His paintings, installations, and sculptures are informed by his Kudjla/Gangalu heritage, and examine Eurocentric narratives around Australia's colonial history. Through his signature 'dot' painting technique, Boyd presents visual manifestations of Indigenous collective memory and perception, suggesting a form of lens with which to view the world.

b. 1982, Cairns; lives and works in Sydney 

Marina Perez Simão

Untitled 1-9, 2022Oil on canvas

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist and Mendes Wood DM who also provided support for this presentation

In a world where we are supposed to know everything through the touch of a screen, Marina Simão paints in order to conjure the wonder and awe that comes with experiencing a sense of being that was previously unthinkable. Her paintings open up possibilities for new states of matter beyond known solids, liquids, gasses, and plasmas. What colors might suffuse the smoldering gasses of yet-to-be-discovered atmospheres in far-off extraterrestrial landscapes? These paintings could be window portals of a spaceship, imagining rivers and waterbodies in yet-to-be-known planets in yet-to-be-known galaxies. Our minds are left free to wander in the myriad paths that open up in her paintings and reach far beyond the limits of the canvas. She takes us to the edge of an abyss with no solid place to step, but with no need to touch the ground.  

Simão uses a variety of techniques, such as collage, drawing, and oil painting, as starting points in order to marry interior and exterior landscapes, she composes visual journeys that sometimes traverse the unknown, the abstract and the nebulous, but also include visions and memories. With interests ranging from science to literature, the artist is on a constant quest to surprise viewers and herself by creating new worlds with visions we might have never imagined before. 

B. 1980, Vitória; lives and works in Sao Paulo 

Munem Wasif

পতন / Collapse, 2021-2023

Spatial design in collaboration with Architect Salauddin AhmedArchival pigment prints, Variable sizesMetal structures, Wooden frames

With additional support from Samdani Art Foundation

Courtesy of the artist and Project88

Munem Wasif brings forward the conflicted relationship between the idea of development and the larger ecosystem. On one side flows a mighty river while on the other stands an intrusive structure made out of rods, cement, sand and stones. In these photographs, we see a man-made structure, geometric, brutal and monumental in scale, standing tall against the forces of vigorous currents of the Jamuna river that race down on the horizontal plane amidst soft and fragile elements of nature.

Bangladesh is born out of the nerves and veins of numerous rivers spurring out of the Himalayas. These rivers move through the mountains, deciding the very nature of the land they pass through, the ecology, human character, life’s rhythm, politics and economy. Neo-liberal development processes in the last few decades have neglected the natural flow of water, climate and the lives around these areas. With human-centric notions of development, economic gain and consumption of natural resources as the basis of modern life, the voices of other species have been excluded resulting in the consequent loss of biodiversity.

Grains of sand particles glisten like stars in these black and white photographs, a ferocious body of water bends hurriedly down the curves, and tall mutilated parts of the structure pierce through the skin of the river silently witnessing the flat plane. Bringing forward this juxtaposition of a horizontal and vertical axis, Munem Wasif’s image based installation discloses a contradictory tale of climate, life, nature and development. One can’t help but ask “What is the definition of development?”

Wasif’s image-based works explore the notion of trace in its various forms. His complex installations often mix photographs with moving images, archive documents or collected paraphernalia to reveal notions of impermanence and insecurity. Never exhaustive and always open to interpretation, the narratives they develop simultaneously test the limits of documentary representation and the possibilities of fiction.

b. 1983, Dhaka; lives and works in Dhaka 

Shahzia Sikander

Singing Suns, 2016

Digital animation with music by Du Yun

Samdani Art Foundation Collection 

Shahzia Sikander recontextualizes traditional motifs from Indo-Persian miniature painting, such as the hair found on gopis (female worshippers of the Hindu god Krishna), into dynamic forms in motion in her animation practice that makes painting sing and dance. Gopi hair swirls in orb-like-forms of varying densities, reminiscent of the shape-shifting movements of flocks of birds or colonies of bats, creating an illusion of singing suns that light up the room. We often think about the sun as singular, but every star is a sun and there are billions of stars in billions of universes. The music accompanying this piece by the Chinese composer Du Yun rejects linearity, and through working cross-culturally across musical traditions, her collaboration with Sikander speaks to the way that cultural practices have developed new forms in circulation, taking new paths by way of collision and deep integration.

Sikander reinterprets the tradition of Indo-Persian miniature painting in a vibrant multimedia practice that considers colonial legacies, orientalizing narratives, and current events, pairing ancient traditional painting techniques with the latest digital technology. She introduces postcolonial and feminist perspectives into rigorous compositions that feature scenes and abstractions related to trade, migration, and imperial histories.

b. 1969, Lahore; lives and works in New York