Samdani Art Foundation
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  • Cosmin Costinas - Director, Para/Site
  • Catherine David - Deputy Director, Centre Pompidou
  • Beatrix Ruf - Director, Stedelijk Museum
  • Aaron Seeto - Director, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN)
  • Chaired by Aaron Cezar - Director, Delfina Foundation


  • Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council
  • Delfina Foundation
  • Samdani Art Foundation

The 2016 edition of the Samdani Art Award exhibition was guest curated by Daniel Baumann, Director of the Kunsthalle Zurich, assisted by Ruxmini Choudhury, Assistant Curator Samdani Art Foundation, and artist Ayesha Sultana. During the Summit, the jury selected Rasel Chowdhury as the recipient of the 2016 award.  Announced during the DAS 2016 Opening Dinner on the 5 February by Kiran Nadar, Chairperson of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Trustee of the Shiv Nadar Foundation in New Delhi, Chowdhury received a six-week residency with the Delfina Foundation in London which he undertook in the Autumn of 2016.

What made me think that “something was going on here?” First of all the quality of works by these twenty artists. To my surprise, there was no advancing of pretentious discourse of the kind one often meets in similar situations in Europe or North America. No talks about the post-Fordist situation, the need for deconstruction, the era of post-Internet or that thing called anthropocene—just to name a few. The artists obviously knew the language of art (thanks to education and the Internet), but they firmly and proudly applied it to their current context.
- Extract from Baumann's DAS 2016 Exhibition Guide Essay





Rasel Chowdhury is a Dhaka-based artist whose passion lies in documenting environmental issues using camera. Born in Jamalpur, he started working in photography without a conscious plan, and eventually became addicted and decided to document spaces in and around Bangladesh. He obtained a degree from Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute in 2012. His body of work deals with unplanned desperate urbanization, the dying River Buriganga, the lost city of Sonargaon, the Mega City of Dhaka, and newly transformed spaces around Bangladesh railroads to explore the change of the environment, unplanned urban structures and new form of landscapes.

The Samdani Art Award exhibition included his photography series Railway Longings. This series showed his contemplative approach to the railroad which was once the only way to reach his birthplace of Jamalpur from Dhaka. He walked along the railway line from one station to another, covering the full 181 km long journey by foot, photographing his nostalgic experience, and documenting the changes in the landscape and rail structures along the route.

Download Rasel Chowdhury's CV

Read our interview with Rasel Chowdhury on our Blog


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Ashit Mitra’s (b. 1975, Dhaka) artistic approach is predominantly based on printmaking. Born in 1975, the artist is inspired by human life in the face of the relativity of time. The sorrow, happiness, simplicity, complexity, struggle, force, and speed of life challenge his process of his work. As a result the composition at first seems simple, but, on closer inspection is full of intricate detail, just as life often appears. His early works had prominence of nature that gradually turned toward conceptual abstraction. He completed his MFA and BFA in printmaking from Institute of Fine Arts, Dhaka (currently Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka). Ashit has participated in artist residencies at Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York and at Visva Bharati, India.


Atish Saha (AKA. Ayon Rehal) (b. 1990, Dhaka) works in the field of photography and performance art and is based in Dhaka. He has an advanced diploma in photography from Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, where he joined in 2011. More recently he has been awarded the Overseas Press Club of America Award and the VQR Prize for Photography. His work explores and exposes a deep understanding of people’s individuality, the private space that is violated by society, his motherland’s independence, the struggle of being a minority, identity crises, and religious extremism, which he often relates to his own personal experiences.


Dhaka-based artist Farzana Ahmed Urmi’s (b. 1980, Khulna) practice focuses on printmaking and painting. The artist was born in Khulna and her work is heavily influenced by the people she encounters in her daily life. Her canvases are full of human histories, some from people that she only knows from a glimpse on the street or from television, and others are from people close to her, but personal contact in variable proximity is important to her work. She completed her MFA and BFA in printmaking from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. She participated in several art camps and residencies in Bangladesh, Spain, and Japan.

Dhaka-based photographer Gazi Nafis Ahmed's (b. 1982, Dhaka) artistic practice deals with his complex childhood memories and departs from moments that took place in the past. The artist first pursued degree in art and design, and then switched to photojournalism and he is currently studying Photography at Istituto Europeo de Design (IED) in Madrid. In his artistic journey he realised the power of photography and its role in the changing society, to impact collective mind states of the audience. He is known for his work with drug-addicts and the LGBT community who are collectively denied by the society. He attempts to take photographs of many things at the same time; things that are interconnected by nature, non-linear and intuitive, and not necessarily fitting into the context of one single “project”.


Dhaka-based artist Rafiqul Shuvo (b. 1982, Dhaka) thrusts his artistic sensitivity through illustration, video art, collages, photography and installation. His work mainly focuses on the ontological influence of time and the evolution of human behavior, looking with concern on the policies and the politics of art’s language. He studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka but broke through academic barriers creating his own artistic language. His video works represent unspoken or non-communicative thoughts and theories through sudden cuts, pauses and juxtaposed editing. His drawings and collages have the identical effect on the viewers. He is the founder of the alternative artist initiative OGCJM.


Palash Bhattacharjee’s (b. 1983, Chittagong) artistic sensitivity and creative approach spans installation, performance and video. The artist was born in Chittagong and his work follows the journey of human life, different phenomena affecting its surroundings as well as moments combed from his memories. In his exploration of time, space, human needs and human intention, the artist has developed a form of communication that does not employ language. His art is derived from life and the livelihood of common people that use familiar objects as their building blocks. Performativity is common in Bhattacharjee’s art, where artistic actions are recorded in photographs and videos. The techniques of painting, sculpture, graphics and electronic media are present in his art too; some of his artistic activity is inspired by popular media in Bangladesh like film, music and theatrical performance.

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Dhaka-based sculptor Rupam Roy (b. 1983) and his sculptural interest relies on the physical nature of sound. Sounds that surround him in nature, reminiscent of the small village where he was born eventually become part of his artistic experiment. Conceptually categorising the sources of sound, he creates visual images of direct and indirect sound and echoes. Roy is currently completing his MFA in sculpture at Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.

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Salma Abedin Prithi (b. 1985, Dhaka) is a Dhaka-based photographer who works with visual language using text and performance to overcome social limitations. The artist started her career as a news anchor, and she discovered photography during her studies at Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute. Her work based  on intimate portraits of ordinary people opens up a portal into their inner struggles and shares the affection that people have towards one another. Her early work with burn patients in a hospital in Nepal focused mainly on psychological rather than physical trauma. Her series of portraits creates psychological fantasies of nostalgia and the inner ordeal of the female experience.

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Based in the old part of Dhaka City, Samsul Alam Helal’s (b. 1985) photography pushes the boundaries of rigid, stereotypical thoughts about people their identity. Helal’s passion for photography started when his older brother became a professional photographer. To enhance his artistic approach, he studied photography at Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute. He photographs Hijra (transgendered people) and working-class people in a traditional, vernacular studio. He has chosen interpretive, dramatic stage portraits to ensure the visibility of his subjects beyond the documentary photography. By creating a space where people can freely perform their dreams for daily life, Helal aims to bring up the extremely important social issues found in the realm of reality and fantasy. Ordinary working-class people’s dreams, hopes and desires are beautifully represented in his photography.


Dhaka-based Shimul Shaha’s (b. 1983) work spans installation, video, sound and drawings. His art practice is constructed around experimentation and deep material research to create his work. He completed his MFA from Beaconhouse National University in Lahore and his BFA in sculpture from Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Illustrations, videos, ready-made objects, acrylic sheets, lights, digital manipulation as well as X-ray prints are part of the visual language of his recent body of work. He explores psychological questions such as the creation of gender roles, lucid dream theory, and existential moments found in last stages of the human life.

Shumon Ahmed is a Bangladeshi artist who explores the fusion between video, photography and text, creating stories that while seemingly contradictory, are private yet collective. Ahmed studied photography at the Pathshala Academy and participated in various exhibitions including the 2014 Kochi Muziris Biennale, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Chobi Mela, Fotomuseum, Winterthur, and Dhaka Art Summit 2012 and 2014.


Zihan Karim (b. 1986) hopes to create a dialogue between the real and the virtual. He stages interventions in the cityscape using film projections that complicate the nature of the site. Deploying the capacity of emotion, the sensible image-movement, and our ability to imagine, Karim tries to lead viewers to a perceptual world, to evoke meaning rather than just describe it. Karim is an audio-visual artist who works with a range of media including moving image, installation, sound and painting. Karim studied painting at University of Chittagong, continues to live and teach there and is working as a founder member of the Jog collective. He has participated in various exhibitions including Dhaka Art Summit (2012); International Short and Independent Film Festival (ISIFF), Dhaka (2012); Asian Art Biennale, Dhaka (2012, 2014); 5th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2014); Itoshima Art Festival (2014) and Next Art Tainan (2015).