Aungmakhai Chak’s confrontations through photography | The Daily Star
02:19 PM, August 09, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:06 PM, August 09, 2020


Aungmakhai Chak’s confrontations through photography

Photography began rather casually for Aungmakhai Chak, as she playfully clicked some photos with a camera that belonged to her sister's friend. Spending her childhood in Naikhongchhari, Bandarban, her passion for the art form developed from a young age. However, it was not until she moved to Dhaka during the intervals of her HSC exams that she started taking photography seriously. She completed a basic course and a foundation course in Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, which kicked off her journey as a photographer.

After her HSC results came out, she did a graduation course at Pathshala. With a supportive family, her stepping stones into the field was not too difficult. However, as someone from an indigenous community, she had to combat certain stereotypes and misconceptions. Growing up in a family with four daughters in a patriarchal society was difficult, but the challenges were quite normal for the young artiste. "Many have the misconception that it is easier for me to tell an indigenous story, because I come from one such community," she explains. On the contrary, orthodox concepts about the indigenous culture often hinder my work." With the odds on her side, Auma, as her family and friends fondly call her, found a niche for her craft. She practices autobiographical photography, whereby the photographer inquires how the art form can affect a real-life discourse.

She thinks of photography as her caméra-stylo. "Regular education is different for a child from an indigenous community. We learn to accept the concepts that are standardised. As a consequence, children get detached from their roots. I search for myself through my works," she explains. "I would never claim that my work is an authentic reflection of my community. It is rather a confrontation."  In her works, Auma places herself as the subject, projecting her lifestyle and her cultural roots.

In 2015, Auma, along with her peers, coined the concept for a collective with female photographers. In 2018, they officially started their journey with the Kaali Collective, with six female photographers. "We felt the need to write and rewrite our own stories and experiences, not just though photography, but through any other mediums as well," Auma asserts. They collaborated with another group of female photographers from Myanmar, the Thuma Collective, on their book, titled Bridging the NAF.

At the moment, Auma is spending most of her time at home reading and clicking photographs. She intends to pursue further studies on visual anthropology.

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