Chobi Mela

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Rush hour commute (all day) at Farmgate bus terminal, Dhaka

Chobi Mela means Picture Festival and I can’t think of a better place to host such an event as chobi loving Bangladesh. Even compared to New York and Paris, Dhaka has one of the highest ratios of documentary photographers in the world. Much of that should be credited to Shahidul Alam, the founder of Pathshala: The South Asian Institute of Photography and Drik, a  photography agency that distributes the work of “Majority World” photographers many of whom are former Pathshala students.

The festival opened with a live video conference between Noam Chomsky from his office at MIT and the West Bengal writer Mahasweta Devi discussing  “freedom”, the festival’s theme this year. I haven’t seen so many gringos in six months. Yesterday I saw over a dozen exhibits at Shilpakala Academy and plan to  sit in on a few of the screenings and talks this week.

So much has been going on in Dhaka this weekend. Bishwa Ijtema, the world’s second largest Muslim pilgrimage  (after Mecca) is taking place this weekend in the northern part of the city. Three to four million visitors are expected from around the world. I was there yesterday and will post more soon as well as what I saw over at Dhaka University where celebrations took place for the Hindu deity Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and learning.

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