What of the photograph made out of nothing? What about painting with light? Is it photography? Surely if we can paint with light we can paint with dreams, create the morning mist or the afternoon glow. Is it fake? Hardly. Whatever else may be false in this tenuous existence of ours, imagination is not. All that we value, that we strive to uphold, all that gives us strength, has been made of dreams, and we must dream on. If pixels be the vehicle that realises our dreams, be it so.  

For are not all photographers dreamers? We paint with light, to hold on to the ephemeral. We play with tones to arrest the fluidity of the transient. We play with form to navigate the edges of our borders. We tug and pull fleeting elements in a never-ending search to redefine what we know and discover what we don’t. It is a restless search, for even in the stillness of a timeless image, the soul wanders, looking for new meaning. Old contact sheets, reworked digital files, uncoupled layers and translucent paths, vintage prints, digital composites all blend seamlessly in the curator’s relentless choreography, in a festival of light and darkness. 

As dream merchants, we create images that confront us with horrific facts, and allure us with magical metaphors. We seek a society where love songs are cherished and curiosity celebrated. We conjure up a mystical world, through light and shape and dancing pixels. We toy with perceptions and juggle facts. We trade in the currency of dreams, and flirt with an elusive reality.  

In a dream often truths are expressed through the unreal - animals and people become interchangeable, strange inhuman characters inhabit this fairy tale universe, there are elements of the sacrifice, of love and cruelty, of strange eternal dream-filled sleep. From the exhibition "Girl who fell to earth" ©Joanna Petrie


The theme “Differences” for Chobi Mela I was prophetic. Soon afterwards two tall buildings fell. Buried with the ashes of those concrete citadels, trapped with the lives of those innocent victims, lies the unresolved mystery of what really happened. Beneath the rubble lie the freedoms that the world has since lost. The lowest credible count records over a million dead in Iraq and thousands more in Afghanistan. The destroyed lives in Pakistan are uncounted. 

 Against this backdrop, the sobriety of the themes of subsequent festivals “Exclusion”, “Resistance” and “Boundaries” are perhaps unsurprising. 

Too many evils are being perpetrated in the name of the words “Democracy” and “Freedom”. Between Chobi Mela I and Chobi Mela V, with Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq under occupation, with children dying of hunger, with more money spent on pet food and cosmetic surgery than the cost of providing drinking water and education for the majority world, it was necessary to re-appropriate the word “Freedom”. It was an act of defiance.  

In a world ravaged by war, to turn to ‘Dreams’ after ‘Differences’, ‘Exclusion’, ‘Resistance’, ‘Boundaries’ and ‘Freedom’ is to return to what holds us together in the face of all our obstacles, the focus of all our longings. In a vastly unequal world, it is our insistence on justice and our ability to ride the waves, which still keeps us dreaming. 


   Shahidul Alam
   Festival Director

Chobi Mela is a biennial international festival of photography held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is the largest festival of photography held in Asia. The theme for Chobi Mela VI this year is Dreams and it will present the creative work of established as well as hitherto unknown photographers.
         Festival  Dates: 21 January to 3 February, 2011. 
         29 Solo Print Exhibitions
         33 Digital presentations

Video Conference with Dr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court

9 Workshop and 1 Portfolio Review

The 29 print and 33 presentations including 2 films and one play “Parable of the Lost Post Office by Rabindranath Tagore” will conjure up a mystical world, through light and shape and dancing pixels- merging the past and the present, bringing to the fore salient facts, forcing us to look within ourselves as well as at the world we live in.

The Festival will challenge the traditional perceptions of art reaching out to the public through gallery, open-air/unconventional locations and mobile touring exhibitions. Parallel to the exhibitions there will be workshops, discussions, seminars and lectures that will initiate debates and discussions on issues central to contemporary photographic practice.

Since its inception in 2000, the Festival has aimed to explore the semiotics of present day photographic practice in a broad national and international context, to bring about an understanding of the medium both within the industry and amongst the public at large. 

Participating countries:  27
Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia,  France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary,  India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, , Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal,  Norway, Pakistan, Philippines,  Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Togo,  Turkey, U.K. and U.S.A.


Congratulations to Karen Knorr for the selection of her image as the theme photo for the Festival.

A peacock mutates from a princely pet to a goddess blurring boundaries between reality and illusion reinventing the Panchatantra (Indian animal fables in prose and verse) for the 21st century. Festival theme photo from the "India Song" exhibition by Karen Knorr UK/Puerto Rico, Courtesy of Tasveer.

This entry was posted in Bangladesh, Chobi Mela, Chobi Mela Theme, Dhaka, Shahidul Alam and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to DREAMS

  1. Pingback: Meet the Selected Artists for Chobi Mela VI on Google Map « Chobi Mela VI Blog

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