February 28, 2019

Rubin Museum Will Open Shahidul Alam Retrospective, Following His Release from Detention

NEW YORK—In November, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York will open the first US museum retrospective of Bangaldeshi photojournalist and activist Shahidul Alam, just one year after his release from a Dhaka jail where he was held for just over one hundred days for speaking critically about the Bangladeshi government’s handling of a student-led protest. “Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power” will present work reflecting the artist’s interest in reframing labels such as the so-called “global south” and “third world,” and draw from the entire span of his forty-year career.

“Photographic imagery in South Asia has become an effective means for the underrepresented to claim voice and political presence,” said Beth Citron, a curator at the Rubin. “Alam is masterful at using images to tell stories and shine a light on injustices and inequities. In a time when free speech and expression is challenged in Bangladesh and across the world, Shahidul Alam’s lifelong work reveals the power of truth and voice in effecting change.”

The artist has been an active organizer for social justice since the 1980s, when he campaigned against the military dictatorship of General Hussain Muhammad Ershad. Last year, he was arrested just hours after giving an interview to Al Jazeera, and was charged under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communications Act, which allows the persecution of anyone convicted of disseminating material “deemed to be false, obscene, defamatory, likely to harm law and order, tarnish the image of the state or an individual, offend religious sentiments, or provoke individuals or organizations.”

Alam was a 2018 Time Magazine Person of the Year, and is a cofounder of Majority World, an agency representing more than three hundred photographers from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. He also founded Drik Picture Library, an independent media agency promoting work by local artists, and the Pathshala South Asian Media Academy, the first photography school in South Asia.

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