Rare images of Bengalis’ valour and Bangabandhu’s charisma

Published : 16 Dec 2022 08:49 PM

On the eve of Bangladesh’s Victory Day, the exhibition titled ‘Witnessing History in the Making: Photographs by Anne de Henning’ was inaugurated at the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka.

The exhibition, curated by Ruxmini Reckvana Q Choudhury, showcases some rare and iconic photographs that celebrate Bangladesh’s indomitable courage during the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistani military and the man who led the nation during its most trying and finest hour, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

On Thursday, the exhibition was inaugurated with the presence of State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources and Trustee of Center for Research and Information (CRI) Nasrul Hamid, Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Director of Samdani Art Foundation Nadia Samdani, State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid, State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak and others.

Renowned French photographer Anne de Henning was supposed to attend the opening of the exhibit, however, she was unable to join due to a flight delay.

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said: "Henning was a fearless young woman. She traveled across Bangladesh to take photos; fear could not stand in her way."

"I told Henning that you only had your camera to accompany you. And then I asked if she was concerned about her safety," Nasrul said.

"She said she knew nothing called fear at that time and was full of courage, and the photos that she took are a testament to that. Only one name – 'Mujib' – inspired her in her journey. She came to Bangladesh again in 1972 to discover more about her source of inspiration."

"As Henning came here, she found Sheikh Mujibur Rahman sitting on the stage. The colourful photos of that time can be seen at this exhibition," Nasrul said.

“A courageous photographer known for documenting numerous wars with her camera, Anne de Henning’s interest in our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was developed after hearing about him everywhere when she traveled across Bangladesh during the Liberation War. Through this exhibition, previously unseen photos are being exhibited,” KM Khalid said at the event.

Nadia Samdani said, “Many of us have not witnessed the Liberation War and the subsequent period. Through this exhibition, the visitors will get the opportunity to explore that timeline.”

Already earning global acclamation and covered by leading international media outlets, the exhibition drew praises in France earlier. “So intense and so fragile” is how Forbes magazine described the exhibit.

Traveling through the country during the Liberation War, Henning’s photographs captured life in the war zone – from freedom fighters, to men, women and children boarding refugee trains and fleeing from their villages.

On her second visit to the country, her photographs from 1972 feature Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who, all his life, worked to decolonize the nation from British and Pakistani rule and move towards democracy and freedom. Images of Mujib were systematically destroyed after the coup of 1975 and Henning’s surviving colour photographs are among the few known to still exist.

“There's a leader from the subcontinent who led his country to independence based on very progressive ideals of a secular, equal country for all,” Radwan Mujib Siddiq, grandson of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and a trustee of CRI, earlier said about the photographs.

In addition to this edition at LWM, the exhibition is also being held at the Guimet Museum of Asian Art in Paris. The exhibition was inaugurated on October 19 and scheduled to continue till January 23, 2023 in partnership with Asia Now Paris Art Fair and Guimet Museum of Asian Art.

The first iteration of the exhibition in Dhaka was held from December 10, 2021 to March 31, 2022 at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) to celebrate 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence.

Tomorrow on Victory Day, Anne de Henning will give a tour of the exhibition at the Liberation War Museum, Gallery 6, at 3 pm.

The exhibition will remain open to the visitors till December 24, every day 10 am to 5 pm except Sunday.