Kalpana’s Warriors photography exhibition
Commonwealth Foundation October 9, 2015

Kalpana’s Warriors photography exhibition


An exhibition by internationally celebrated photographer and social activist Shahidul Alam in tribute to the comrades of Kalpana Chakma in Bangladesh will run throughout the three day People’s Forum.

Kalpana’s Warriors is a unique exhibition of a never before used technique of laser etchings on straw. The moving show critiques military repression of indigenous communities of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh.

“It is only when the governed have a say in the process of governance that society can prevent autocratic rule,” says Shahidul. “Artists need to find creative ways to overcome taboos and ensure marginalised voices are heard. Kalpana and her warriors through their resilience and their courage, remind us that resistance is always possible.”


The process behind the exhibition


The process involved in creating these images was rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Repeatedly, the interviewees talked of the bareness of Kalpana’s home. That there was no furniture, that Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat.

Rather than print on conventional photographic media, it was decided to use a material that was part of pahari daily lives. The straw mat became the canvas. The fire that had been used to raze pahari homes, also needed to be represented, so a laser beam was used to burn the straw, etching with flames, the images of rebellion.

New settlements with glistening tin roofs dot the hillsides. Amnesty estimate that there are currently 90,000 internally displaced Jumma families.

Abandoned typewriter in the room where Kalpana and her comrades used to meet.





Photographs Ⓒ copyright Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World 2015.