Artist Ashfika Rahman’s visual and conscious approach to a more inclusive feminism with I BELONG

Photo: Courtesy of Goethe-Insitut Bangladesh

Ashfika Rahman is a contemporary visual artist based in Dhaka whose artistic endevours dabble on art and documentary with the use of photography as a medium to express her views on complex systematic social issues. She explores such an important issue with her work for the exhibition on young feminism titled 'I Belong'.

The exhibition inaugurated on March 6, 2022 at DrikPath Bhaban was part of a joint collaboration by the Goethe-Insitut Bangladesh and DW Akademie, curated by Ashfika Rahman that attempts to represent the conversations between women across various generations through the exploration of the consciousness around Feminism.

The show exhibited the portraits of nine young feminists of Bangladesh, layered on top of which are maps of significant areas in Bangladesh where a sexual assault had taken place. Each of these photographs capture the indomitable spirit of the feminist who despite the toxic misogynistic culture always fight back. Besides these powerful photographs, statements from these feminists were hand printed on their mothers' belongings. A conversation between the artist and their mother is also displayed focusing on her personal journey as a single mother and a social activist, paving the way for the next generation of feminists.

Moreover, a documentary clip exhibiting the opinions of strangers; their faced pixelated in order to keep their identity anonymous on the streets of Dhaka were asked to share their ideas on feminism bringing forth the reality of the existing misogynistic perception and religious stigmas surrounding the issue. "Although the clips aware us on the narrow-minded perception of most people towards women in Bangladesh, we have to understand that it is not entirely their fault. In order to succeed in this movement, we need to determine why they hold this view and subsequently work towards changing it in a way that makes feminism a part of people's consciousness." shares Ashfika Rahman.

Additionally, the exhibition opening was followed by panels and workshops, held in a hybrid format with various on-site and online events from 6 to 13 March 2022 with discussions on various topics including the history of women in Bangladesh and its media projection, challenges around communication of gender in the mainstream media, women's role in religions by established intellectuals from different backgrounds, offering a diverse perspective on the topic.

Taking about the inception of the project, Dr Kirsten Hackenbroch, Director of Goethe-Institut Bangladesh shares, "Break the rules, smash the patriarchy, I belong too"- symbolizing these ongoing narratives around feminism, we felt the need for a conversation between the older generation who have fought for our rights and the younger generation of feminists who might be facing new challenges. We all came together to offer a platform to understand their perspectives and their desire to contribute to the cause."

With an aim to connect the youth and the young media professionals to the wider feminist community, both the exhibition and the panel discussions created a space for furthering the dialogue around the current state of feminism and its aspirations in the future. "This is just the beginning of the many conversations regarding the movement, the formation of which doesn't only require women from different communities but also demands the inclusion of the men whose perspectives need to be changed." adds Ashfika

Ashfika Rahman studied photography at the University of Applied Sciences Hannover, Germany and received a professional degree in Documentary Photography from Pathshala South Asian Media Institute. Her work has been exhibited at numerous galleries and international festivals such as Palais de Tokyo, FR. "Chobi Mela X" International Photography Festival, BD, Dhaka Art Summit BD. She is a faculty member of Pathshala and the receiver of Joop Swart Masterclass 2018 by World press. She is Member of MAPS Images Agency, BE and represented by VITRINE Gallery (UK/CH).


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