Bangladesh

Bangladesh: National Pavilions, Inside or Outside Green Zones?

It is a strange time for a revival of that contentious, “national” pavilion concept. Recent events have converged to underscore an unruly national that supersedes the biennial platform. News headlines have made the “Made in Bangladesh” clothing label tag a global signifier (check your collar, you may be wearing one). How many people knew, before a garments factory collapsed in Savar, that Bangladesh was the world’s second largest exporter of clothing after China? Shameema Rahman’s lament for the Savar dead is more powerful than anything you’ll see in a gallery: “Assuming that this boy was unaware of the theories of Kierkegaard I shall say that this is the natural instinct of a person about to be gobbled up by the overwhelming horror of becoming non-existent – in the socioeconomic context of post-second world war, neo-capitalism and neo-liberalism.”

How many United Arab Emirates residents knew who was building their skyscrapers, until Bangladeshi workers led a strike protesting labor conditions in Dubai construction projects? Did anyone ever ask the rose sellers of Rome if they missed Bangladesh, deep in the heart of Europe? In Siena for System Error: War is a force that gives us meaning, a show I had curated with Lorenzo Fusi, the post-opening dinner was interrupted by a Bangladeshi flower seller. The restaurant owner seemed uncomfortable with this intrusion – as if “national” should only be in the form of the visiting curator or artist (who will eventually leave), not the working-class migrant who will insist on his right to become Italian-Bengali.

The Chittagong art scene, where my mentor Dhali Al Mamoon is from, is healthy and dynamic because it is far from the madding crowd. It resists the siren call of the Euro-American curator on “discovery” tour. But, let us not also remove ourselves from the local reality outside the studio. Will artists speak of subaltern lives (not glamorous, but quite essential), forcing national pavilions to break out of green zones?

Naeem Mohaiemen

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Pavilion

Organizer/Commissioner:
Francesco Elisei
Artists:
Mokhlesur Rahman; Uttam Kumar Karmakar; Dhali Al Mamoon; Ashok Karmaker; Lala Rukh Selim; Yasmin Jahan Nupur; Gavin Rain; Gianfranco Meggiato
Curator:
Francesco Elisei

Curator

Name:
Francesco Elisei
Gender:
Male
Born:
Italy
Lives and works in:
Italy
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
2

Artist

Name:
Mokhlesur Rahman
Gender:
Male
Born:
Bangladesh, 1961
Lives and works in:
Bangladesh
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Uttam Kumar Karmakar
Gender:
Male
Born:
Bangladesh, 1962
Lives and works in:
Italy
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Dhali Al Mamoon
Gender:
Male
Born:
Bangladesh, 1958
Lives and works in:
Bangladesh
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Ashok Karmaker
Gender:
Male
Born:
Bangladesh, 1963
Lives and works in:
Bangladesh
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Gianfranco Meggiato
Gender:
Male
Born:
Italy, 1963
Lives and works in:
Italy
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
2

Artist

Name:
Gavin Rain
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1971
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Cape Town

Artist

Name:
Yasmin Jahan Nupur
Gender:
Female
Born:
Bangladesh, 1979
Lives and works in:
Bangladesh
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Lala Rukh Selim
Gender:
Female
Born:
1963
Lives and works in:
Bangladesh
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Politics & Economics

State System:
Parliamentary republic
Ruling Political Party:
Coalition of the centre-left secularist Awami League with smaller social-democratic and Bengali nationalist parties.
Population (World Bank, 2011):
150,493,658
GDP per capita (World Bank, 2011):
$743
Gini Index (Inequality level) (World Bank, 2010):
32.1
World Bank credit:
$5,840,000,000
Net OECD ODA Aid Received (2011):
$14,977,500,000
Military Expenditure (SIPRI, 2011):
$1,510,000,000

Alliances


Commonwealth
IMF debt
World Bank debt
International Criminal Court recognized
Non-Aligned Movement
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
WTO

Conflicts

Country independent since:
1971 (secession from West Pakistan)
Last Major Border Revision:
2011 (demarcation of the Indian-Bangladesh border)
Colonial History:
Former British colony
International Court of Justice cases:
1
Global Militarization Index (BICC, 2011):
121
Nuclear Force?
No
Ongoing Conflicts and Disputes:
Frequent outbreaks of religious and ethnic violence. Conflicts over regional autonomy. Maritime border disputes with India and Burma. Human Rights Watch expresses concern about extrajudicial killings by government forces and the treatment of refugees from the Arakan state in Burma.
Participation in Multinational Missons:
UN peacekeeping missions in Congo, Cyprus, Darfur, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Liberia, Sudan, and Western Sahara.