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Hijra photoshoot in Dhaka

By Sabya van Elswijk,

hijras and martijn

Today we were invited by Katha to come to the place where she usually gives dance classes to other hijra. She invited 10 hijra to come today and be part of the portraits we are making on hijra in Bangladesh, as a part of the Dhaka project and Dragqueens of the World. We arrived on the top floor of a building in the centre of Dhaka, which is waiting to be renovated, to provide a place where hijra can come and educate themselves and each other.

Ten hijra are there, beautiful in clothing and make-up, all with a natural female look and energy. We also get introduced to five people working with government and Ngo’s who support the hijra community. We only have 3 hours for this shoot, and want to return later. To hang out with all of them, to talk more about their backgrounds and lives. Samsul and Emran are here, talking to all of them, asking about themselves. Meanwhile Martijn starts the photoshoot in daylight, which is good, because there is no electricity in the building yet. I am taken by the NGO people to see the whole floor and talk about their goals and support for the hijra. Some of the hijra are playing soccer with Sét.

Looking at the group of hijra, they look like they are visiting a family party. Some younger ones are gossiping together, posing for each others mobiles. Elder hijras are gathered in the corner chairs, drinking tea. The officials are sitting and talking together. The diversity between the look and character of the hijra is enormous, as it is between women walking on the street. After doing their photoshoot with Martijn, and talking to Samsul and Emran about themselves, they come to me to do their private photoshoot with me, the foreign woman. They want portraits together as we are friends, very close and hugging. They probably don’t realize how special it is for us to meet them.

In two week we will be back here to spend more time and make group photos.

Show: Yourself

  Show Yourself is a special exhibition showcasing the works of three artists from three different continents. While it is easy to limit an artist’s perspective through the lens of his/her own cultural identity, each of our three displayed artists represent and champion global experiences and perspectives. Their artworks have been shaped by their perpetual […] Continue reading →

Elderly in Bangladesh: Rowshan Ara Chowdhury

By Sabya van Elswijk,   This is Rowshan Ara Chowdhury. She is the grandmother of Alia Kamal, one of the artists of the Dhaka art project. When we first meet, Alia tells me how guilty she feels of having a grandmother in the house, with whom she barely speaks or has contact with. She says […] Continue reading →

Dialogues #6: work process

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Hijra in Bangladesh: Parvat

By Sabya van Elswijk, After our meeting with Boys of Bangladesh, we understand more about being gay in Bangladesh, and it is also clear you will not find people who call themselves ‘dragqueen’ openly here. We do want to work on this subject, and are looking for contacts in the Hijra community in Dhaka. Hijra’s […] Continue reading →

Elderly in Bangladesh: Tara Adhikary

By Sabya van Elswijk, Aroni brings us to her former neighbour, or ‘auntie’ as she calls her. Tara Adhikary is her name, and she has come to Bangladesh from Jamsitpur, India after she married in 1951. She had her two sons here, and lived in this neighbourhood for many years. This is Mirpur 10, where […] Continue reading →

Shali Mazar: Musicians

By Sabya Van Elswijk, One of the participants of the Dhaka art project is Aroni. She is a painter, and a dancer. Her father is a known Bangladeshi composer and musician, her brother is a composer, and her mother has her own music school. For the choice of the group of people she wants to […] Continue reading →

Cleaner with clean heart

By Kallol Karmakar, Zohara Jhumu & Apurba Hasan. In this ‘divide and rule’ society there are many classes we can find. Among them middle class is one of the most reactive classes. To maintain their livelihood this class does a lot of work; the amount of rewards they get for this, the same amount of […] Continue reading →

“He wants to go beyond the Sun!!”

By Sumon, It is hard to recall the time, when with some of my friends we chatted on to the boat, near to a berth bank of the Burigonga river. It was in the middle of the day, somebody lay down and somebody relaxed to pass away a silent moment, then one of us just […] Continue reading →

Boys of Bangladesh

By Sabya van Elswijk, We are invited to meet with the director of Boys of Bangladesh, a network of gay people in Dhaka. Arriving at his place, human rights activist Tanvir Alim welcomes us and explains that they use apartments as informal meeting places. There are many volunteers; all of them spend time on Boys of […] Continue reading →