Popular expressions and matters of faith
Walking down the streets of Dhaka – or anywhere in Bangladesh for that matter – popular expressions of matters of faith, specifically Islam, strike the eye. Painted on public transport vehicles such as trucks, three-wheeled auto taxis or bicycle rickshaws, painted on walls and minarets of mosques, paintings and calligraphy dot the landscape. While Islamic expressions are normally associated with high art forms that reflect deep spirituality and faith, or more recently with the growing politicization which is often seen as extremism or fanaticism, these popular images reflect an every day and comfortable co-existence with the faith. Eschewing the high art forms of the Mughal and Sultanate traditions of the 15th to the 18th centuries, these images reflect a more folk tradition, and an easy accommodation with religion and culture. Contemporaneously, it adds the kitschy cinematic styles, associating it with pop art and culture.
Two years of taking random photographs of various features of the Bangladeshi landscape led to this collection of images, which brought to focus the connection between pop art forms and expressions of faith in Bangladesh. Vehicular art has been documented quite extensively in South Asia, including Bangladesh. The following photo essay seeks to highlight matters of faith in street art forms, which includes the vehicular.
Safia Azim obtained her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Psychology from the University of Dhaka (Bangladesh), graduating at the top of her class in both instances and going on to a decade-long stint as faculty member. During this period, she also conducted cutting-edge research on Violence against Women as a member of the feminist organization, Naripokkho. Her passion for design led her to establish a unique and successful clothing brand,’Kushaal’. Side-by-side she undertook several gardening or landscaping projects for both indoor and outdoor, public and privately owned spaces. In 2003, she decided to pursue her unwavering propensity to work in the area of visual arts as a self-taught photographer cum graphic designer on a full-time basis. Since 2004, she has been designing the artwork for CD inlays of musical albums of several Bangladeshi musicians, as well as some of their promotional material - posters, flyers, advertisements in both print-based and audio-visual media, as well as conceptualizing and overseeing the production of a number of music videos. This experience introduced her to a whole new world of digital equipment and editing softwares. Today her Nikon D300 is her constant companion and her ‘mechanical’ third eye.