BARAK VALLEY ARTS CONFERENCE 2018

The Northeast India Company is a publisher and event organiser dedicated to the pursuance of the arts and the humanities in Barak Valley, Assam in particular and Northeast India as a whole. Since 2016, we have organised a number of seminars, conferences and festivals to bridge a connection between Barak Valley and the rest of the world. Our partners and collaborators during this period include the Department of Comparative Literature, Assam University (Silchar Campus), the Department of Bengali (Presidency University, Kolkata), Jookto (New Delhi), the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Institute of Technology, Silchar and other governmental and non governmental institutions.

This August we are organising, in collaboration with the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, NIT Silchar, the first edition of Barak Valley Arts Conference. Attendees from five Indian states and five South Asian countries will participate in this three day long international conference. For details, please refer to the image below.

Anuvad Annual Arts Residencies 2018-2019.

We are very glad to announce the third edition of the AAAR programme. As you must know already if you have worked with us in the past or have supported us in any way, this unique programme is one of the very few paid arts and cultures residencies in South Asia. We have had residents from Australia, the USA, the UK, Canada, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand and Myanmar at the previous two editions of the programme. We look forward to a fruitful exchange this year as well.

Please look at the attached images for details about the programme. For any doubts or conversations about the AAAR Programmes in Silchar, Assam, please write to us at the curator’s desk (choudhuri.arjun@gmail.com).

We are especially interested in cross genre work. Your ‘project’ proposal may include anything from a book of visual poems to a photo exhibit or a dance presentation.

N. B. The AAAR programme is sponsored and funded privately by The Northeast India Company as part of our outreach programme for social and cultural development in Northeast India. This is entirely a non profit endeavour and all posts herein are voluntary or honorary.

NEIC’s collaboration with ERA AMADER. 

We have previously announced our research project titled BarAknAmA: A Visual Biography of Barak Valley a couple of posts back, if you will remember. While a development meeting was on at the Studio for the project, we came up with an idea that would not be charitable, but quite socially responsible.

ERA AMADER, an institute for children with multiple disabilities, was introduced to us by Prof. Vandana Thousen, a friend and an eminent teacher of the town. We made a visit to the institute a week or two back and found that there was a lot NEIC could do in order to aid the simply astounding work that they are engaged in doing.

So we proposed a collaboration of which details will be available in the video that we are sharing here, below this tract. And gladly enough for us, the authorities at ERA AMADER, with no little aid from Prof. Thousen, agreed to the idea that we had formulated.

The fundamental idea behind the collaboration is to make ERA AMADER more visible to the people of Northeast India and even outside our corner of the world. A secondary motive was to encourage the sales quotient of the exhibitions and production resultant from Camera Barak so that fifty percent of all proceeds could be gifted to ERA AMADER for the development it dearly is in need of.

Please treat this as a call for cooperation and participation. Do watch the video. Share with friends or those who would be interested. Think about the whole matter. Children with multiple disabilities exist all around us. On the fringes of this society that, so very ostentatiously, thinks of them as a necessary liability. Why not see them for what they exactly are? Our inherent responsibility.

Click to watch the ad film on ERA AMADER here.

UNISHEY MAY: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY. 

An announcement that may prove to be very interesting to many people related to in some way or the other to Barak Valley’s cultural spaces – Mr. Saptharshi Bhattacharjee of the Department of Visual Arts, Assam University, Silchar has recently started a visual biography project on the Language Martyrs of Barak Valley. And it makes us very proud and happy to report that he is progressing very fast on that front. We are sincerely hoping his book “Unishey May: A Photobiography” will be ready for publication along with Mr. Jhalak Das’ book on Shonbeel.

What is so striking about fifteen dead men and women who were shot down in cold blood at different times by the usually manipulative, then aggressively confrontational Congress state government of Assam?

Nothing much, apparently. But for anyone who has ever beheld the public adulation directed towards sundry commemorative altars called “Shaheed Bedi” anywhere in Barak Valley on the three days of May between the 17th and the 20th, it will be easy to imagine what exactly is the song that these thousands of hearts, conscious in their Bengaliness sing on the day of the 19th of May every year. It’s this evasive definition of a song and its romance with the forcing heart that is at the core of the sentiment, call it that if you will, that is Unishey May or the 19th of May.

This year, a colleague commented, and on the 19th itself, that the true date of observance of the martyrdoms in question should be 4th Jyesthha, according to the “Bengali” calendar. I did not reply, or comment, of course, the introverted geek that I am. But does it matter anyway? Is not the rituality and the annual rememoration of an tragedy important enough? Does it have to be something politically correct in order to manifest its mnemonic potential?

One thing that memory, or material memory, or embodied memory cannot be used to justify is the spatial duality that most public celebrations in India or similar countries with a colonial past are essentially supported by and support. It is therefore important to be able to look, observe and connect to the diversity of the images of these public commemorative actions.

And Mr. Bhattacharjee in the mentioned book has tried to do exactly that. He has ventured the narrative of a commemorative ritual and not a historical incident. For histories are meant to be ruptured, a la mode de Koselleck, and challenged and subsumed by thought and evidence and deduction. But the memory of a place, a time in a place, a place in an era and an era gone away but living on in the contemporary, all in all the cultural memory of anything cannot be ruptured. Simply because it has no linearity to lay claim to. But also because of the fact that memory, by dint of its pervasiveness, leaves no nook untouched. Where history will or may reject, memory is like the ball of mercury that gathers and grows as it goes.

We are all looking forward to Mr. Bhattacharjee’s book, and we wish him all the best for all his future projects.

Here’s a screenshot from from the mentioned book’s preliminary layout.

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SHONBEEL: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY 

Here’s the deal with newness – you get to learn how to appreciate the old, the banal, and find fulfilment with your designs for appropriating the new. The new then turns into the old again and again the search for the new begins to unfold, much like a snake shedding its skin, or my dog Lord Dicky Mountbatten moulting too early in the year. 

It is certainly quite difficult to theorise here about the genre of the photobiography for the obvious paucity of space. But what we have done in these our recent projects (which are mostly photobiographies) that are slowly moving towards a successful completion is nearly what adventurers do – prowl through unknown turns of the narrative like jungle and to excavate the palimpsest of earth and rock and to discover what few living eyes have beheld ever, that stone in the midst of it all. 

Pardon the heroicspeak, and the Yeatsian allusion, but we are indeed very excited to report about Jhalak Das’s visual biography on Shonbeel. The efforts he has put in so that this brief project might prove to be a well done one, by way of incurring some positive visibility for Barak Valley are laudatory of course, considering the fact that Jhalak is only a beginner undergraduate at Assam University’s Department of Fine Arts. But the tact and empathy he has displayed in his use of lilting shadow and shedding light in his photo essay/biography of one of the world’s most well known wetlands region, Shonbeel, shows that here’s the possibility of some sound photographic research based in Silchar. 

Some might find it a difficult proposition that photography can actually be a research tool or methodology. For them we have little by way of advice. But for those who realise that Shonbeel: A Photobiography is a text with a lot of potential, do keep coming back here. We will have news about book releases and launches here in the ea future. Until then, best wishes and regards. Do send your appreciation to Jhalak Das here as a comment or a post. 

P. S. Here are a couple of images of Shonbeel by Jhalak Das.