Last night [9/11/11] in the nowhere lab, an art studio and venue on Bethnal Green Road, we were treated to the Bangla Season of Drama’s film night. Managed by the good people of The Brady Centre and supported by farsighted community organisation the season is something worthwhile supporting, for all sorts of reasons.
The film night was centred on an autobiographical account of theatrical director and veteran Fauzia Khan I do deform to be deformed, and followed by shorter feature from curator Hamja Ahsan and Drik Gallery’s Chobi Mela. The evening provided a window into a cultural conversations that we see or hear little of on these shores. We have to squint and listen hard for the little that we can witness here, something which should change.
The main feature followed Begum Fauzia over her career of participation in the Bangladesh theatre scene since national formation. Glancing themes of rebellion, roots, collective creative labour and artistic method, the piece depicts the artist’s eye view of her creative processes and self-image. Being this viewer’s first contact with her work, it was difficult to fully grasp at times. I guess a great deal is lost in translational steps. For example, I found the subtitler’s conflation of the Catholic concept of confession and the Islamic concept of tawba a bit silly. Fauzia Khan sure has an awesome singing voice and is someone I will be paying attention to. It was the clear vocal training and lyricism that appealed to me, if not the roles and scenarios played out on stage.
Next, as a here-and-now interlude, a collection of short films from OtherAsias Hamja Ahsan were shown. The first places a Brick Lane restaurant tout in St Martin’s Art College, much to that institution’s bemusement. The second and third ran two Bangladeshi narratives on Morrisey’s warped worldview down Brick Lane.
In both directions, from the deeply insulted post colonial man in a lunghi and futwa brandishing a sugar cane travelling from banglatown to dickhead town, a Bengali on a platform, to the third generation Asian uberfans heading the other way with no coherent narrative other than badly expressed adulation.
To round up, a video presentation of Drik Gallery’s fifth Chobi Mela in 2010 rammed the point home that there is very good news from Bangladesh, even if it is a little too donor sponsored. Shahidul Alam, the founder of Drik is an activist and photographer of international reknown. The Chobi Mela is a unique expressive event that moves both the socially-engaged international photography community and the national community. The feature again took the position of fly-on-the-rather-interesting-wall and explored the personalities, intentions and social interactions of the festival as it unfolded in the streets, galleries and community centres of Dhaka.
Bangladesh has a great deal of creativity circulating around, and the theatre season is a good initiative to connect those of us formed in the UK to cultural production in our ancestral lands. Yes there are different ideologies and often problematic donor and national politics running through it, but I am sure we can all appreciate the confidence, beauty and inspiration value of it and learn.
This was the second in a string of theatre-based events that will take place over the next month. It is important if we are to collectively move beyond chicken shop and hip hop, with both local and Bangladeshi playwrights and actors featured.
For a the programme of events see the Tower Hamlets Arts page