By Kamrul Hasan
A photography exhibition that features work by 16 young men and women from the Rohingya and host communities at Cox’s Bazar was held at the Bangladesh National Museum in Dhaka yesterday.
A total 67 photographs were on display at the exhibition, titled Building Peace : Youth in Cox’s Bazar Explore Diversity.” The photos expressed the stories and reality of the Rohingya and those who are hosting them.
The exhibition was organized by the Advancing Access to Reliable Information project, implemented by Internews Bangladesh and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The work on display is the end result of a five-day photo camp at Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, organized in collaboration with National Geographic in May.
Four instructors from National Geographic trained the participants of the camp in photography and visual storytelling. The young photographers explored issues of identity, tolerance and diversity, as the theme of the camp was a peaceful coexistence between communities.
“It would have been hard for me to understand these people fromm a different community with different beliefs who live in a small part of my neighbourhood, if I had not visited them inside the camp to take photos,” 19-year-old participant Papiya Shabnam Keya said while addressing the inauguration of the exhibition.
Mofiz Sumon, another young participant, said: “I used to take photos before, but now I know how every picture has its own story.”
In a video message sent via the organizers, Rohingya participant Parvin Akhter said: “We only knew photos as selfies, but now I know how they can help make history by showing the world the people of our community.”
Internews Bangladesh Country representative Zain Mahmood stressed the importance of spreading information, and said the project was started as those living in communities were best suited to informing other members.
USAID Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Office Director Randall Olson inaugurated the exhibition.
Thanking the government for being generous to the refugees, he said “The United States understands the challenges created to the Bangladeshi people by this immense refugee crisis. For this reason, USAID programs assist host communities, as well as those inside the camps.”
The students shot more than 40,000 pictures under the watchful eyes of their instructors, in such diverse locations as hospitals, market places, madrasas, temples, water pumps, and schools. They also documented their lives in the camps and host communities in detail.
The participants told Dhaka Tribune they took verbal permission from anyone they photographed before doing so.
Selected participants also received classroom and field instructions on digital photojournalism and editing, as well as on working in diverse teams to shoot and produce thematic photographs.