"Words such as family, tradition, belonging mean a lot here. In fact, they are what bind. The ether, filled with collective growth, cannot be touched or seen. It is lived. Old Dhaka ceases to exist as just an area, and the streets I have called my own become one singular space that I call home." M.W.
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"Having grown up in the small town of Comilla, Munem Wasif’s dream kept changing from becoming a pilot to a cricket player and then a photographer. But none of these choices made his father happy. Later in life he moved to the comparably big city Dhaka. He obtained his diploma in photography from Pathshala, a life changing experience, which made him aware of his stories, gave him a photographic voice to photograph stories such as: the dying industry and afflicted workers of jute and tea, excluded people and disrupted lands due to environmental change and salt water, and the city so close to his heart: Old Dhaka.
Wasif prefers to photograph the people he knows. Therefore his country Bangladesh is his first, and favourite field of investigation. He never finds it a problem to be treated as a storyteller of a humanistic tradition, classical in his photographic approach, as long as it shows compassion and the emotional he experiences when photographing his subjects. With an outlook of a traditional style, he goes against the clichés, going from one direction he allows himself to grow in different directions, like the branches on a tree going their separate ways, yet with the same root of humanistic approach."
Extract of the foreword by Christian Caujolle
"Puran Dhaka, or Old Dhaka, was a rather unlikely subject. I live here. It existed all around me. It was almost trying to find the unseen within the everyday. Old Dhaka had made me appreciate properly cooked greasy food, the sleaziest of slang, and it is where I had come to rediscover the same small town pulse of holding on to things rather than letting go. My own childhood years in Comilla, a small town mostly surrounded by countryside and steeped in customs and traditionnal lifestyles, had made me not just appreciate but feel at home with relations which grew over time and bordered on tradition more than trend. But through the frames, my Old Dhaka started to divulge unseen lives and throw back at me more agonizing questions of assimilation, and even worse, deletion.
As I started to look, the world that seemed just ordinary and domestic began to unravel into an intri- cate web of ages-old wisdom and tradition. Festivals such as Holi celebrated with all its grandeur at Shankhari Bazar, which had seemed nothing more than fun, just throwing colours at one another, revealed bonds of belonging, spiritual continuity and rejuvenation. It ceased to be a mere Hindu fes- tivity, but more a celebration in the joy of being. Old, regal structures that had seemed liked edifices were now symbols of “living art”.
The common sight of mothers’ bathing their children in the small courtyard and tired, old horses pulling carriages that had long ceased to be any “real” form of transport, were becoming dots in a matrix where living meant progressively building on what you have and not deleting structures, customs, ways of life which had come into place over centuries. It took time, but with every passing day, I realized why Sumitra Debi of Bonogram wants her own house and those surrounding it to stay the same. They were not merely houses, they represented her sixty years in this world. It is time and lives. Lives lived within the confines of walls breathe with those structures and their collective consciousness makes the fragments into a whole.
Words such as family, tradition, belonging mean a lot here. In fact, they are what bind. The ether, filled with collective growth, cannot be touched or seen. It is lived. Old Dhaka ceases to exist as just an area, and the streets I have called my own become one singular space that I call home."
– Munem Wasif