The Samdani Art Award, Bangladesh's premier art award, has created an internationally recognised platform to showcase the work of young Bangladeshi Artists to an audience of international arts professionals. The Award aims to support, promote, and highlight Bangladeshi contemporary art, and was created to honour one talented emerging Bangladeshi artist between the ages of 22 and 40. Through the Samdani Art Award exhibition, which forms part of the programme at the Dhaka Art Summit, many of the previously shortlisted artists have gained recognition and been selected to participate in various international exhibitions and residencies.
In the year between each Dhaka Art Summit, the Samdani Art Foundation, in partnership with the Delfina Foundation—with who the Samdani Art Award has partnered with since 2013—sends an open call for applications. The Delfina Foundation then identifies twenty semi-finalists, and the guest curator selects the shortlist of ten to eleven finalists following one-to-one sessions with each of the artists. The winner is then selected by a invited jury of international arts professionals.
The winner of the Samdani Art Award receives an all-expenses paid, six-week residency at the Delfina Foundation in London. A residency at the Delfina Foundation can be a career-defining moment for an artist to develop their ideas, sharpen their practice, and widen their networks.
The 2018 Samdani Art Award was curated by Simon Castets and the winner was Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury.
The 2016 Samdani Art Award was curated by Daniel Baumann and the winner was Rasel Chowdhury.
Each of the eleven shortlisted artists will show newly commissioned work in an exhibition at the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) from February 2-10, 2018, guest curated by Simon Castets, Director of the Swiss Institute, New York, by the invitation of Diana Campbell Betancourt, Artistic Director of Samdani Art Foundation and Chief Curator of Dhaka Art Summit. During the summit, the award will be presented by Tate's Director, Dr. Maria Balshaw, selected by a jury chaired by Delfina Foundation's Director Aaron Cezar and comprised of artists Sheela Gowda (artist, based in Bangalore, India), Runa Islam (artist, based in London), Subodh Gupta (artist, based in New Delhi, India), and Mona Hatoum (artist, based in London). In association with the Liverpool Biennial, each of the shortlist artists will receive curatorial mentoring support from the New North and South network. The Samdani Art Award winner will receive a three month residency with the Delfina Foundation in London.
"It is a tremendous honour to be working on the Samdani Art Award with the foundation's wonderful team. I had the privilege of meeting over twenty artists while in Dhaka, thanks to Aaron's thoughtful pre-selection. The quality, scope and urgency of most works made task of curating a group of eleven positions to articulate in the group exhibition exceptionally challenging. While no sweeping curatorial statement would do justice to the breadth of artistic endeavors at play, it can be said that all undertake careful examinations of their respective contexts through poignant vocabularies. They are as many reminders of the importance of the Samdani Art Foundation's efforts in fostering awareness of Bangladeshi artists." –Simon Castets
Ahmed Rasel (b.1988, Barishal) is a faculty member of the Dhaka-based photography institute, Counter Foto. He earned a Masters in Bengali Literature from the University of Dhaka (2013) with the ambition of becoming a poet, before realising that photography could better blend his poetic feelings with his inner vision, memory, and personal history. Rasel is a visual storyteller. He presents the world as a continuation of the great human story, intertwined with his personal experiences, believing that every story forms part of our overall world history and that every human being is a historical element. His work has been published in Trouw, Private Magazine, F-stop magazine, and The Daily Independent, among others, and exhibited in photo festivals in Bangladesh and India.
Aprita Singh Lopa (b. 1986, Kishoreganj) holds a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the University of Dhaka. Her work examines the relationship between the natural landscape and the creatures that reside within it. Lopa searches for ways to maintain and develop the worlds green spaces, while communicating the importance nature plays in everyday life through the mediums of ceramics and performance. She has been included in numerous group exhibitions within Bangladesh.
Asfika Rahman (b. 1988, Dhaka) is currently studying photography at the University of Applied Science and Arts in Germany, and received a professional degree in Documentary and Photojournalism from Pathshala – South Asian Media Institute (2016). Her practice sits between art and documentary, drawing inspiration from 19th century prints, which she recontextualises with new media. Photography has become the predominant medium and vehicle for expressing her views on complex systemic social issues.
Debasish Shom (b. 1979, Bagerhat) was raised in rural Bangladesh and is part of the country’s Hindu minority. Shom’s work is a very personal form of self-expression motivated by his socio-political background and the psychological tension in the subjects he tackles. Working in the medium of photography, Shom uses alternative image-making and printing techniques, choosing the way he captures light through his lens based on the feelings he wants to communicate. He is currently a lecturer of Photographic Technique at Pathshala – South Asian Media Institute. His work has been published in CANVAS, The Daily Star, and Lens Culture among others.
Marzia Farhana (b. 1985, Dhaka) constructs precarious multimedia installations informed by Joseph Beuys’ anthropological understanding of art. Her practice is time- and space-based and ongoing, open to interpretation. Art for Farhana is an act of resistance, an act to resist the horror of the present wild condition of the world. She received her Masters of Fine Art from Central Saint Martins (2014) and bachelor of Fine Art in Graphic Design from the University of Dhaka (2009). Her work has been exhibited in multiple group shows in Bangladesh. She has attended residencies at the Khoj International Art Association Residency in Goa, India (2017) and the 16th International Festival in Iran (2010).
Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury’s (b. 1981, Noakhali) interdisciplinary practice plays with everyday objects to create interactions, which sit between installation and assemblage. By creating unfamiliar situations for everyday objects, Chowdhury creates new interpretations of familiar objects while opening new experimental territories with open-ended possibilities. He received a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking at the University of Dhaka (2011). His work has been shown in group exhibitions throughout Bangladesh.
Opper Zaman (b. 1995, Dhaka) examines the daily scenarios and codes everyday people participate in to survive within society, addressing factors such as social standing as well as race and culture, in an attempt to understand what others experience. Using a wide variety of media, Zaman creates spaces in which his audience can be emerged, and engage with, his concepts on how other people, living very different lives to his own, experience life. Zaman is currently working towards a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Hertfordshire.
Palash Bhattacharjee (b. 1983, Chittagong) bridges performance, installation, and video within his practice. His works present aesthetic experimentations derived from personal experience, set in relation to human sensitivities and emotion. These are conscious and unconscious expressions of his everyday behaviours, excitements, and obsessions within the context of a society where narratives of a human’s existential reality seems to lose meaning in the face of larger political, social concerns. His work and performances have been included in numerous group exhibitions throughout Bangladesh as well as South Korea, Argentina, and the United States. Bhattacharjee received a Master in Fine Arts from the University of Chittagong (2006).
Rakib Ahmed (b. 1988, Netrakona) is a photographer and director whose work has been published broadly. His project “Faces of the City” documents the lost black and white photography studios – those that used darkrooms – of Bangladesh’s past. Ahmed received a Bachelor of Arts in Photography from Patshala – South Asian Media Academy (2010).
Reetu Sattar (b. 1981, Dhaka) is a theatre and performance-based artist. Her practice redefines space through smell, sound, light, or taste to express concepts such as presence and absence, memory and loss, collective and resilience, individuality and originality, land and culture, time and space. Working across a variety of media, Sattar’s works act as a collective memory, or collage, of life’s vicious circle of forgetfulness, examining traditions or rituals that were once an important part of her culture, forgotten by time and the progression of society. Sattar’s work has been exhibited at Para-Site in Hong Kong (2017) and the Asian Art Biennale in Dhaka (2016) among others. She has performed throughout Bangladesh since 2009.
Shikh Sabbir Alam (b. 1982, Kushtia) embraces the practice of freehand drawing to plot out his thoughts, which evolve into a more permanent process, predominantly painting. Alam embraces each part of the process to express his understanding of a subject; each dot, line, shape or colour helps him to map out an idea. His work portrays the process of our sensory system, creating a map to describe the elements and their position within the process. Alam received a Master of Fine Arts from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Norway (2016).