'... not everyone has been considered a citizen with rights to protect.'


What does an enfranchised future look like? Since the inception of the nation-state, not everyone has been considered a citizen with rights to protect. Throughout the world, the disenfranchised including peoples of colour, indigenous peoples, and people of diverse sexual and gender orientation, continue to fight for spaces to endure, imagining how and when their security, their representation in and of the world is recognized. The artists in the 'Social Movements and Feminist Futures' section of the Dhaka Art Summit 2020 employed fantasy and poetry to imagine territories that emancipate them from the everyday violence of capitalism, patriarchy, and political/religious fundamentalism.


Q: Why were the walls in the Social Movements and Feminist Futures rooms painted in different shades of blue and purple?

A: We wanted something that could be outer space or underwater.

Huma Bhabha’s work addresses themes of colonialism, war, displacement, and memories of home. Using found materials such as styrofoam, clay, construction scraps, and cork, she creates haunting human figures that hover between abstraction and figuration, and include references to science fiction, horror films, tribal art, religious reliquary, and modernist sculpture.  


Using printmaking, video, installation, and sculpture, Chitra Ganesh unpacks gender and power in a futurist imaginary inspired by the utopian, feminist, sci-fi novella Sultana’s Dream (1905) by Bengali author and social reformer Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. In the words of the artist, the project ‘draws on Hossain’s vibrant imagery, translating a story written in verse into a visual grammar that connects with problems that shape 21st-century life: apocalyptic environmental disaster, the disturbing persistence of gender-based inequality, the power of the wealthy few against the economic struggles of the majority, and ongoing geopolitical conflicts that cause widespread death and suffering. These works comment on this fraught moment in world history, demonstrating the enduring relevance of feminist utopian imaginaries in offering an invaluable means of envisioning a more just world.’ Ganesh met with Bangladeshi artisans and architects as well as members of the broader queer and trans community of Dhaka in the process of creating this commission for DAS. Their open process of sharing knowhow challenges received notions of how labour is gendered and organised within patriarchal structures. Ganesh’s work draws from and deconstructs historical and mythological texts to queer the future of the iconic female figure. Her pictorial language is inspired by surrealism, expressionism, and South Asian visual culture, such as Kalighat painting and ACK comics.  Top and above: Photos Randhir Singh.


Sultana's Dream, series of prints by Chitra Ganesh.

Feminist Research Institute UC Davis | Sara Ahmed


© 2020 Dhaka Art Summit | Samdani Art Foundation