Vol. 5 Num 630 Tue. March 07, 2006  

Photography exhibition
What migrant faces say

Syeda Farhana, who had her exhibition of photographs Migrant Faces at the Goethe Institut recently, says, "I did a course on the camera at Patshala and in 2000 worked in Kern TV in Hamburg on Kishani Shobha', a movement in Potuakhali. While there I did a project on photography. The present exhibition is about the migrants in Keraniganj, who have been to different countries in the Middle East and Far East. I made this film on the migrants who return home."

When Bangladeshi go overseas for employment, they take with them the love of the country, a love of the green and red of the country, Farhana says. "They take their skills, determination, dedication, youth, education and experience to the foreign lands. Most importantly, they take their dream of leading a better life."

She collected the immigrants' passport photos, scanned them and put them side by side with their more recent photographs. Often the hope is missing, and face carries years of experience. "I have also put in the words of their experience so that the viewers can learn from them. These are only fragments of their experience but they speak a lot. The fragments are pieced together and reflect life overseas. Not all are discouraged and reflect optimism as well. In a box I've put in gifts and souvenirs that they brought from overseas.

"To turn their dreams into reality the migrants have flown and settled in homes, factories, construction sites and hospitals. With their labour they have even sent home money for their families," Farhana reminds us. In order to earn the money they have had to struggle hard and this is reflected in the photos taken recently. There is greying hair and wrinkling eyes to be seen in the new photographs, when age sits heavy on their faces after years of struggle as hired hands. Sometimes a state of prosperity also shines though some of the images and these speak of success and satisfaction.

She has also put in the stamps of the letters to make the collection more authentic. In an album she has scanned their pictures with the overseas setting and included fragments of their diaries written when the migrants were abroad. It is written in migrant Mahboob's diary that his sister is dead but he cannot come home for the funeral. In order to travel to and fro, the migrants have to use airplanes for the first time in their lives and this is a major experience for them. To indicate the overwhelming feature of travel, Farhana has hung pieces of paper in the shape of airplanes. There is a mirror hanging in the exhibition with the caption "See yourself before you become a migrant worker."

"I've worked on migration problems in India and people ask me why I work on this subject. I feel that if migration did not take place the world would not be what it is today. Migration is something important for us, both in the developed and underdeveloped world. I try to document this so people can learn from them," says Farhana. She writes on migration in particularly in Priyo Bangla, a periodical that is printed in USA for the Bangladeshis living there.

Photograph of migrant faces at the exhibition