Exhibition Invitation: Portraits of Kamalapur

Excited to invite you all to the next exhibition of the Kamalapur portrait drawing project. I hope people can make it. The opening night is Thursday 13th July 2017 at 6pm. More details below.


Invitation: Public Opening

IMG_1458Invitation 5th May

For more information and images from the instagram feed, go to: Paraa Website


Amrao Manush – We are people too.

We have done this particular exercise once before – asking people to outline what amount of space they think they need to sleep, work and play (the method is simple – a chalk and the concrete floor). When they are pavement dwellers, you can imagine the contrast in what we may perceive and they perceive. And it becomes an ‘us’ and ‘them’ environment as we are genuinely fascinated. What transpire for us, is an exercise that reveals the realities of the people that live on pavements in Dhaka, and I assume other places across the world. There is no magic pill to fix this of course. As the women and children draw spaces no bigger than toilet (atleast sizes of toilets I have been used to).

I now think about how much space I need. Perhaps a comparative would be interesting between those of who ‘demand’ more space (to live,work,play). We also clearly have stronger  networks that make it easier to do things and coupled with social mobility as well as safety nets that allows us to move around the city freely within means. What I mean to say is that these pavement dwellers understand their spatial needs, but it becomes something else when we ask them what are their aspirational spaces.  What would be an ideal home? Without showing homes of others, or without indicators or criteria, they inevitably will be suggesting something quite similar to what they need.  Is that so wrong? Of course, we can ‘regularise’ the informal sector – which will not realistically happen, and then at what cost?

There is quite a difference between providing social housing, looking at upward mobility and transformation to people being able to exercise their basic rights as citizens and live in dignity.  It seems quite vague when I write such sentences, that ultimately, how many more are left behind in this poverty trap?  And if the world is becoming more urban, then who is at the helm to steer us out of the catastrophe? Leading architects seem to come up with little in Bangladesh, and the Urban Planners are trapped in bureaucracy and old modes of practice. Where does that leave us then? Who is it that leads and begins to penetrate the jungle and monster that is Dhaka City administration?

And also where to start? piecemeal solutions and NGO driven projects only go so far, we are told time and again – time limited, scaling problems and access to resources and sustainability once project timeline comes to an end… The city corporation and administration does not have the capacity to deal with the influx of people within it. The Government does not plan properly. The reasons are probably quite endless. The solution(s) are also just as endless, yet – the people in the middle – the poor – are left to wait.

I wanted to reflect on this, its been a week or so since we did the exercise, when people draw such spaces as their needs – the role for architects and planners really needs to be evaluated.. Especially concerning the rights of the poor. Buzz words such as inclusivity and empowerment can only go so far.. Practical end goals are necessary.  Its pretty easy to sit in the office to discuss inclusive designs or urban scale ideas that will be great for all. The city infrastructure does not allow for it to happen so easily.

Our work with the Amrao Manush project will provide some insight into how a foundation is working and trying to capacity build the urban poor.  The target has been to help them move up from ‘the street’ – to rent something, anything, that might resemble a more permanent home. More importantly, we can provide some input – how useful it will be, time will tell. It is quite easy for me to think about how to connect and engage with wider urban poor movements across the world that might be of benefit. For now, it is important for us to focus on designing a night shelter for the women and children with facilities for them to cook, wash and rest/play.

This is a link to the project : Amrao Manush



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Dhaka Drawings: day – Dec 25th

I just got off the phone from speaking to someone, whilst speaking, I was drawing myself – I wondered whether I was doing the right thing, I was questioned about how I treat people. Am I really fair? All this social justice and values that I preach, do I actually practice them? I am left disturbed more than I should be. An imposition of thoughts that reflect someones else’s will upon me. That I am being judged.

As the day went on today, I made it a point that I would draw – I grabbed my pad and pencil case and off I went – I managed some quick doodles whilst on the rickshaw, the rest of the day spent with friends.

Bizarre dreams aside, 2014, on reflection has been immense. It will take a while for it all to sink in. I keep thinking to do a Paraa post, an update on the work and the research, but I get overwhelmed by it.

The drawing expresses how I feel today. thoughtful, calm. steady. focused again.

I went to New Market to buy a book – currently reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, I picked up a Roald Dahl book  – My Uncle Oswald. To help escape the madness that grips me at times, and to rebalance my own thoughts.

An email from a friend talking about new years resolutions – I replied – ‘to continue drawing and letting go as best I can to Love. To not be afraid.’

Well, it means picking up the pencils and pens and continuing on. Looking at myself in the mirror, drawing what I see. Being honest to myself has been important, it has also been terribly tough. I have a wonderful group of people around me though, both family and friends to keep me going in the tough moments that life throws.
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Dhaka Drawings pt2: Day 3

Yesterday we had no electricity across the country for a few hours, this morning I recovered from my jet lag – sleeping heavily. Having compiled a survey report for the Bihari camps, I will read Susan Sontags – Regarding the Pain of Others. This drawing is an attempt to draw music – I don’t particularly like the drawing, but it captures the noise, as opposed to the music, of the generator whirring in the background, as we all waited for the electricity to return…  Yes, the audience was mainly expats, and clear that not everybody had turned up due to the crazy day of no electricity. It is on every saturday this month at the Jatra rooftop in Banani, a space for young musicians to pick up the mic, plug in their instrument and play.


Exhibition: Drawn from the Streets, London

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Bengal History Week 2014 – 18-26 October 2014

I am looking forward to some of the talks during the Bengal History Week. As we continue our work on the ground and develop Paraa, it is always great to understand what research and development is being developed. It always seems like there is not enough being done in terms of good research and development, and so it is great that the Brick Lane Circle is able to continually organise these events, with a small budget, a lot of hard work and dedication and their ability to keep it as an academic environment, not a village banter always impresses. They have their critics, of course and it is necessary to have that as a scope to build on the talks and debates that they organise over time. I am a fan, so promote them as best as I can. Hope people can attend some of the talks. All are welcome! 
18-26 October 2014


Normally we hold the History Week during the first week in October but this year we have chosen the week 18-26 October 2014, partly due to the fact that 23 October this year is the 250 years anniversary of the Battle Buxur, when the victory of the East India Company resulted in the signing of a treaty with the Moghul Emperor Shah Alam II, which enabled the British to acquire the Diwani of Bengal, rights to collect taxes of the province.

Although as usual many topics will be covered during the next Bengal History Week the main focus however will be on East India Company, its wars and conquests in Bengal / India and their consequences.


By Nick Robins

Saturday 18 October 2014, 2.30-4.30pm, Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, 277 Bancroft Road, London E1 4DQ

“The East India Company was founded in 1600 to trade with Asia – and grew to use its commercial muscle and private army to conquer Bengal, winning control at the battles of Plassey (June 1757) and Buxar (October 1764). In the process, the Company reversed the historic flow of wealth from Europe to Asia – using Bengal as the bridgehead for the conquest of India and the forced opening of China, using opium grown in Bihar as its lever. Nick Robins, author of the The Corporation that Changed the World, will present an illustrated lecture on the Company’s rise and fall, its social and economic impacts and the lessons for international relations today.”


By John Stevens
Monday 20 October 2014, 6.30-8.30pm, Lab 1a, Idea Store Whitechapel, 321 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1BU

The main focus of his research is historical, utilising source materials in Bengali and English in order to promote an understanding of the histories of India and Britain which places them in regional, imperial and global contexts. His PhD focused on the ideas and activities of the Bengali Brahmo religious and social reformer Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-1884), and his interaction with a range of British intellectual, political and cultural figures.

John Stevens is a Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow. He gained his PhD in History from UCL in 2011. He is currently working on two books: the first is a study of political theology in India and Britain in the nineteenth century; the second is a biography of Keshab Chandra Sen. His research interests include: the interconnected histories of modern West Bengal, Bangladesh and Britain; comparative religion and political theology in India and Britain; postcolonial theory; the historical construction of gender, race, class and nation; social, cultural and transnational history. He is a regular visitor to India and Bangladesh for research purposes.


By Fatima Rajina

Tuesday 21 October 2014, 6.30-8.30pm, Conference Room, Idea Store Whitechapel, 321 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1BU

This study undertakes a critical analysis of the concept and the process of identity construction within the British Bangladeshi Muslim community in East London. Here in Britain, it was the events of 7 July 2005 (7/7) that gave rise to the attention given to the British Muslims because the attacks were perpetrated by home grown British Muslims as opposed to al-Qaeda operatives from abroad. Fatima aims to explore how two very different generations of British Bangladeshis deal with their identity – whether it is religious and/or ethnic identity – and to what extent they impact the integration, especially of the young Muslims, into the wider British society. She is hoping to look at factors that help structure an ethno-religious identity – e.g. language, dress, cuisine, and more – and how the British Bangladeshi community has developed this identity over time, considering the fact that the Bangladeshi community has been settled in East London since the late 1950s. This study also takes other issues into consideration to help identify boundaries created by the community in terms of sameness and otherness within the British society.

Fatima is currently a Nohoudh PhD Candidate at SOAS and is a German and Spanish teacher. She has an innate appreciation for the diversity of human nature, as evidenced in her choice of degree and in her desire to constantly engage with the complex and challenging facets of our global society. She speaks Bengali, German, Spanish and conversational Urdu. She is currently studying Arabic as part of her PhD.  Fatima is an active member in her local community and a radio show host at Betar Bangla 1503AM in London. Fatima was awarded the Princess Diana Memorial Award for her work in promoting diversity and social cohesion in a multi-cultural society.


By Heloise Finch-Boyer (Curator) and Tracey Weller (Archive Learning Officer), National Maritime Museum

Wednesday 22 October 2014, 6.30-8.30pm, Conference Room, Idea Store Whitechapel, 321 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1BU

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich holds a diverse collection of artefacts relating to the British maritime world. Of great importance to this world is the role of the lascar sailors of the Indian subcontinent who served on British ships and contributed to Britain’s economic success. Despite the important role played by these sailors it is not always easy to find their stories amongst the museum’s collections.

Heloise Finch-Boyer and Tracey Weller will describe how they unearthed previously unknown archival items and historic photographs relating to lascars. The objects will feature in a new community history and digital project opening at the end of 2015 that requires the help of the Bangladeshi community to help interpret the artefacts and contribute to an exhibition.

Come and find out more about the project and how you can become involved.


By Dr Jon Wilson

Thursday 23 October 2014, 6.30-8.30pm, Lab 1a, Idea Store Whitechapel, 321 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1BU

The stories which imperial soldiers told in the 18th century suggested that India was conquered as a result of British heroism and valour. In fact, British action was shaped by Indian politics. The Mughals were symbolically still important; the Marathas were a powerful force which the Company was constantly afraid of. This talk will explain how Battle of Buxar led Indians to recognise the India Company as a major power throughout India for the first time. But it will also show that it didn’t lead to the effective British domination of Indian land.

Dr Jon Wilson is Senior Lecturer in History at King’s College London. His book on the beginnings of colonial rule in Bengal, The Domination of Strangers, was published in 2008. He is currently writing a general history of British rule in India, India Conquered. Britain’s Raj and the Chaos of Empire to be published by Simon and Schuster in 2016.


By Dr Georgie Wemyss

Saturday 25 October 2014, 11am-1pm. Places are free but advance booking only. Meeting place will be provided to those who are booked on the walk

Dr Georgie Wemyss is the author of The Invisible Empire: White Discourse, Tolerance and Belonging (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at UEL.


By Priyanka Basu

Saturday 25 October 2014, 2.30-4.30pm. Venue 2, Rich Mix Centre, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6LA

The subject of “folk” performances in Bengali cinema has remained somewhat unexplored in terms of analytical engagement as well as theoretical understandings. But  cinema itself seen in the earlier bio-scope) is indebted to the “folk” performance genres from which it has borrowed profusely with respect to music, dance, sound and even structure. This talk will focus on some of the films produced in between 1940 and 1980 to underscore a historical understanding of Bengali cinema’s handling of the subject of “folk” genres and the shifts, transformations and   stereotyping that are foregrounded in the process.On a broader reference frame, she situate these films within the political changes and crises in Bengal (like Partition) and the affect it had upon the industry and the viewership.

Priyanka Basu is a performer (in Odissi dance) and her research interests include Bengali theatre, music, and films, Marxist cultural movements, living ethnographies, and    gender histories. She is in the process of finishing her PhD at SOAS, London on the Felix Scholarship and has an MA and MPhil in English Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her current research addresses the song-theatre genre of Kobigaan within different sites, contexts and politics in West Bengal & Bangladesh.


Details to be confirmed

Saturday 25 October 2014, 5.15-6.15pm. Venue 2, Rich Mix Centre, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6LA

Due to unforeseen reasons it will not be possible to stage the reading play of Silent Cries as previously advertised. Instead there will be a film show based on history.


By Mixt Nutz

Saturday 25 October 2014, 7.00pm. Venue 2, Rich Mix Centre, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6LA

Comedy hour hosted by:

MC Sejeela Kershi

and featuring:

Inder Manocha

Prince Abdi

Jasmine Choudhury and others


By Roy Moxham

Sunday 26 October 2014, 2.30-4.30pm, Lab 1a, Idea Store Whitechapel, 321 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1BU

He recently retired from the University of London.  His most well-known book is The Great Hedge of India, part-travelogue, part-historical treatise on the author’s quest to find a 1500-mile long customs hedge built by the British in India to prevent smuggling of salt and opium. His second book, Tea: Addiction, Exploitation and Empire focuses on the effect of British tea addiction on British policies in Asia and Africa, and includes the author’s own experience as a tea plantation manager in Africa. His third book is called Outlaw, the extraordinary and true story of Phoolan Devi, India’s famous ‘Bandit Queen’, and of a friendship that transcended borders, religion and language.


By Professor Mushtak Khan

Thursday 20 November 2014, 6.30-8.30pm, Conference Room, Idea Store Whitechapel, 321 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1BU

He is Professor of economics at SOAS, who completed his PhD in Economics at Cambridge. Previously he taught at the universities of both Oxford and Cambridge. Information on his research interests are available on http://www.soas.ac.uk/staff/staff31246.php.


Free entrance. Free street parking. If you have any questions, please contact via email bricklanecircle@yahoo.co.uk