Smriti Azad, Dhaka

This image shows photographer and activist Shahidul Alam’s image of singer and performer Smriti Azad protesting at a rally at Shaheed Minar, a national monument in Dhaka. Azad had attended political rallies with her sister as a child, and in adulthood she was active in the women’s movement, the committee demanding the trial of war criminals, and a cultural group that was active in the movement to bring down Bangladesh’s President Hossain Mohammed Ershad, who many considered an autocrat. This photograph and Alam’s work speak to the power of language and the power of protest, particularly at a time when Bangladesh endeavored to recover the democracy it had fought for in seeking nationhood.

Born in Dhaka in 1955, Alam came of age as Bangladesh fought intensely to become a liberated democratic nation. From 1947 to 1971, the period following British colonial rule, the nation was known as East Pakistan. With West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan), it formed a geographically divided country with a shared state religion of Islam. Bangladesh attained independence in 1971. Although the country was founded on democratic and secular ideals, it turned toward religious nationalism in the late 1970s. Alam’s first body of work as a photojournalist involved documenting the rule of President Ershad and key moments in Bangladesh’s struggle for democracy until Ershad was ousted in 1990.

This artwork is on view in Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power.

Shahidul Alam
Geographic Origin
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Photograph courtesy of Shahidul Alam / Drik / Majority World
Additional Information
Rubin Museum of Art