The recent wave of protests against racial injustices perpetrated against the Black community in America, inspired people of all colours across continents to proclaim “Black Lives Matter” in solidarity with the movement.
Born from a place of restlessness and responsibility, The Black Story exhibition has taken shape as a powerful combination of artistic expression and intellectual interventions in exploring the intolerable injustices and generational trauma experienced by black communities. With the intent to examine, expose and embrace our historical ties, this exhibition delves into the interactions between Black and South Asian communities.
The two communities in the West have shared a longstanding ally ship and enjoyed a sense of camaraderie born out of their shared struggles to build solidarity.
These connections are best embodied by the ‘mixed’ lives of Black Bengalis. In Vivek Bald’s book, ‘Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America’ he unveils how multiple waves of Bengali Muslim migrants became part of iconic American cities like New York, New Orleans, and Detroit. Many started families with African American, Creole, and Puerto Rican women, building new lives in the American working-class communities of colour between the 1880s and early 1900s.
The ties between Black and South Asian communities are not just limited to the diaspora that exists in the West. Afro-South Asia is an important and mostly unexplored segment of the Global African Diaspora which exists across the region such as the African descended communities of Gujarat and Karnataka’s Sidis, Hyderabad’s Chaush, Pakistan’s Seedis, and Sri Lanka’s Kaffirs.
Through this month-long virtual exhibition, we hope to engage Bangladeshi and global audiences in a journey to discover how our communities are intertwined. The Black Story comprises works encompassing painting, video, sound, poetry, film, and photography. Concurrently, a series of webinars and interviews will be held to create meaningful dialogue around issues of race, identity, and power (or lack thereof). Through multi-disciplinary art and intellectual discourse, The Black Story will explore our past, examine our present, and imagine our future in the context of institutionalized racism experienced by minority communities.
The Black Story exhibition features five Bangladeshi artists: Alakesh Ghosh, Kanak Chanpa Chakma, Afrozaa Jamil Konka, Bishwajit Goswami, and Sourav Chowdhury. The body of work presented is a collective commentary on the experience of systemic oppression, racism, and discrimination faced by the Black community; and examines how our own communities have institutionalized anti-black sentiments.
Through The Black Story, Gallery Cosmos intends to reinforce the message of humanity’s absolute equality. To that effect, the virtual exhibition space has been designed as a Rotunda: a circular platform symbolizing equality, solidarity, and a sense of universality that belies the themes explored in this exhibition.
The evolution of this exhibition has been profoundly transformative for me on a personal and professional level. It was conceptualized with the intention to create profound and powerful work that transcends time and space. In deconstructing the ties between black and brown communities, The Black Story exhibition imagines the empowering potential of our shared destinies by appealing to our deepest sensibilities – as only art can.
Executive Director & Curator