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Chobi Mela, Asia’s first major photography festival, is one of the many initiatives of Drik, an organization with its headquarters in Dhaka. It was originally founded in 1989 by Shahidul Alam and a few like-minded colleagues as an agency for local photojournalists, in order to counteract their homeland’s one-sided representation as a citadel for catastrophes in the international media with the use of more differentiated images. The diverse artistic and cultural, as well as journalistic, political and educational events to develop from the organization’s endeavors were covered in an article on Drik that appeared in our magazine’s fourth issue (October 2003) .
Since 2000, the Drik Picture Library and its partners in Bangladesh and other countries organize the Chobi Mela International Photography Festival, held every two years. The festival’s name combines two Bengali words. A native reviewer of the festival wrote that "chobi" could mean photography, painting or cinema, and that the word "mela" meant a large festival (Azizur Rahim, in: New Nation Online Edition, 9. December 2004).
The theme of the 3rd edition of the Chobi Mela, held in December 2004, was "Resistance". Regarding the theme, the festival director Shahidul Alam wrote: "To resist, to challenge, to question, to go against the grain, to deliberately choose the untrodden path is a conscious decision. It is a risky route fraught with danger, but a route we must follow, if change is to come."
And about the exhibitions, we read in his introductory text: "Fine art, conceptual work, installations, and traditional photojournalism coexist in a strange mix, oblivious to attempts to categorize and label them. The future, the present and the past huddle together, sometimes uncomfortably, to produce a kaleidoscope of images and woven messages that question, reflect and celebrate aspects of our existence."
The works of 40 photographers from 17 countries were shown: Bangladesh, Great Britain, India, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nepal, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, USA, and the United Arabic Emirates. Among other locations, the works were shown at the Alliance Francaise, British Council, Goethe-Institut, Drik Gallery, the Russian Cultural Center, and at the Muldhara Milanayatan.
In keeping with its self-imposed educational objective, Drik sought direct contact with people on the street by organizing mobile exhibitions built onto 10 bicycle-drawn rickshaws. Included as part of this festival edition was a wide-ranging program with seminars, workshops and discussions.
The well-known Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer, invited to Chobi Mela III as an honorary guest, stated in the last-published editorial page of his online publication zonezero.com: "I am sure that, as this festival grows over the coming years, Bangladesh will increasingly become a major center for the development of photography. And there is no better place to have such an event than in a city where photography is welcomed by the population to such a large extent ."
Pat Binder & Gerhard Haupt
Publishers of Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art and of Nafas Art Magazine. Based in Berlin, Germany.
Chobi Mela III
6 - 23 December 2004
Drik Picture Library Ltd.
A S M Rezaur Rahman