Kamruzzaman Shadhin: The tale of a socio-politically conscious artist
Celebrated visual artist Kamruzzaman Shadhin works on diverse media, including installation, video, sculpture and performance art. Born in Thakurgaon, his artistic research is predominantly based on socio-political, environmental issues and their overlapping affiliations. His art projects are often created through public participation and are exhibited in public spaces. He is the founder of Gidree Bawlee, a non-profit art organisation working for creating scopes for cultural and artistic exchange between artists and the rural and indigenous communities through collaborative approaches. He is also a part of of Chhobir Haat, an alternative open space for art and artists, which played an important role in the public art movement in Dhaka.
Shadhin's widely acclaimed work titled Haven is elsewhere (2017-2018, commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation) was showcased at the 4th Dhaka Art Summit, and in Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow. The work embodies the common quest of the most migrants and refugees; the search for a 'Safe Haven.' In his work, internally migrated people in Thakurgaon, created a quilt from the used clothes of displaced people from Southern Bangladesh.
"I am interested in the various layers and dimensions of migration and how it is related to history and current ways of the world," said Kamruzzaman Shadhin. "Currently, I am developing a piece that explores the relationship of jute cultivation and migration in the colonial times of Bengal. Through my organisation Gidree Bawlee, I am working in my village to trigger an artistic movement through collaborative community art projects."
Many of these clothes and narratives of displaced people were collected over a period of time by the artist from people, who were illegally trafficked as forced labourers into Thailand and Malaysia, while some of these were abandoned by the Rohingya refugees. These were then sewn together by the internal migrant community in Thakurgaon and embellished with the traditional Bengali Kantha embroidery techniques through a therapeutic ritual.
During the 2018 Dhaka Art Summit, these monumental quilts formed a projection surface for video documentation that attempted to capture the stories of displacement through these once-used clothes. These quests for freedom often continue as the new migrants and refugees become targets for illegal trade and trafficking, continuing a cycle where the safe haven shifts its axis further and further out of their reach.
Shadhin completed his BFA and MFA from the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. His work maintains a satirical edge, dealing directly with the politics of environmental degradation and destruction, and its effects on communities across Bangladesh. Migration, social injustice and local history are recurring themes in his works. The traditional crafts of the region and their underlying relationship with the history of this land has become a major part of his artistic research and journey for several years.
His first solo exhibition 'Rooted in Soil', was held at the Alliance Française de Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2016. He also participated in the prestigious exhibition 'Fabricated Fractures', organised by Samdani Art Foundation at Concrete, Alserker Avenue, Dubai in 2019.
Shadhin also participated in the first edition of Majhi International Art Residency Programme, presented by Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation in Venice, Italy. The residency took place at Combo, the former Convento dei Crociferi, where he worked and exhibited in 2019.
"I believe all artists – wherever they come from – belong to a single community. Together we think and create works," said the artist. "I don't know whether the output is good or not, but, for sure, we make a deep connection among us. This experience could lead us to developing new projects and ideas together."
Shadhin won the Grand Prize at the 17th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh for an innovative installation titled Greed, showcasing the adverse impact of nature on the life of the Santal community. Previously, he won an Honourable Mention Award at the 16th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh, for a video installation featuring the miserable life of the Palestinian people. He also bagged another Honourable Mention Award at the 18th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh.