Fri, 31 March 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

Witnessing History in the Making: Photographs by Anne de Henning Bangladesh 1971- 1972

Update : 18 Oct 2022, 10:43

French photographer Anne de Henning’s solo photography exhibition titled 'Witnessing History in the Making' will take place from 19th October 2022 to 23rd January 2023 in partnership with Asia Now Paris Art Fair and Guimet Museum of Asian Art.

The first iteration of the exhibition took place in Dhaka from 10th December 2021 to 31st March 2022 to  celebrate  the 50th Anniversary of  Bangladesh’s independence.

The exhibition will focus presentation of rare, never before exhibited images by Anne de Henning, curated by Ruxmini Reckvana Q Choudhury. Between 1971 and 1972 the photojournalist captured the birth of the nation and her remarkable private archive of unseen photographs are a unique record of the pivotal years which saw East Pakistan transformed into Bangladesh. A Bangladeshi Flag gifted by the freedom  fighters  to  Anne  de Henning  in  1971  will  also  be  displayed  at  the exhibition.

Moslem Uddin Mirda with a large crowd chanting slogans,Pangsha, April 9, 1971

The earliest set of photographs from 1971 cover Anne’s first visit to the country at the age of 25. At that time, the early days of conflict in April, the Pakistani authorities in Dhaka were not letting foreign journalists into the country. This was obviously to keep them from reporting on the atrocities they were perpetrating on the civilian population after having launched Operation Searchlight on 26 March 1971. This encouraged to secretly travel to East Pakistan along with her colleagues.

Travelling through the country during the Liberation War, her photographs captured life in the war zone – from freedom fighters to men, women and children boarding refugee trains and fleeing from their villages. In her powerful images the humanity of her subjects is combined with the grit of traditional photojournalism.

In her powerful images the humanity of her subjects is combined with the grit of traditional photojournalism.

Taken on her second visit to the country, Anne's photographs from 1972 feature Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who, all his life, worked to decolonise the nation away from the rules of British and Pakistan towards democracy and freedom.

Anne captured Bangabandhu giving a speech at the first Council Meeting of Awami League after the independence of Bangladesh. 'I came specifically from Calcutta to photograph the event,' she said. Although at the time Anne favoured shooting in black and white, she chose to capture this event in colour because of the vibrant blue, white and red stripes of the shamiyana — ceremonial tent —that housed the event. 

Images of Bangabandhu were systematically destroyed after the coup of 1975 and her surviving colour photographs are among the few ones known to still exist.

In addition to images of Anne's travels throughout Bangladesh, the exhibition brings together other works from her archive including photographs taken in India and her coverage of the Vietnam War.

Anne was 26 in 1971 when she visited Bangladesh. She travelled through the country during the Liberation War and captured life in the war zone in her photographs, which shows refugees comprising men, women and children boarding trains and fleeing from their homes, freedom fighters and more.

To mention some of the photographs, one photograph shows freedom fighters at an observation post across the Indian border on April 7, 1971. Another photograph shows Anne de Henning with her camera travelling on a truck along with a freedom fighter holding a rifle in Kushtia on April 8, 1971.

Besides, another photograph, captured in Kumarkali on April 9, 1971, shows a family fleeing for safety.

The event also displays 11 photographs of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that were taken by Anne when she visited the country in 1972. Besides, the exhibition also brings together other works from her archive, including photographs she took while visiting India and during the Vietnam War.





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