The global award in photography and sustainability

Munem Wasif

Munem Wasif’s haunting series of photographs of an undefined land elucidates the dialectic relationship between a land and its identity, an identity at risk given the relatively new concept of the nation state and of the environmental effects of man’s “progress” post the industrial revolution. Situated on the edge of a blurred boundary of Bangladesh and India, the mundane, almost extra-terrestrial land hides human interaction with its surface and exposes ever-changing curves with Wasif’s repetitive frames. It seems that frames rarely move from each other, slowing down time and motion and blurring the character of a land, disassociating it from its political and geographical identity. This images questions the identity of a land that is tied to a specific political and geographic context, but which could also be anywhere, as Wasif displaces the viewer from space and time.

The chosen area of land in this series is a mere observer of nearly a hundred years of land disputes, which saw colonization, 1947’s divide of the Indian subcontinent and mass-migration with Partition, and 1971’s liberation war of Bangladesh which created the current border tension with the neighboring country, India. Absence of any profound identity for its existence never diminishes its presence, and its body carries the wound of aggressive industrial acts, such as stone collection and crushing. This land belongs to no one, and is thus exploitable by anyone motivated to avail of the land’s unlikely riches. As hills and mountains are cut away to mine the material needed to build Bangladesh’s roads, the communities who have lived on the land for thousands of years become alien to it, as they can no longer identify their community by natural markers.

Wasif’s work is not a definitive act of understanding the totality of deeds, rather deliberately ignorant of them with the help of an unconscious camera, to merely show land’s lone existence over a period of time. The vantage points of the frames only give a starting point, but don’t provide any conclusion. Look-alike frames and ambient sounds once overcome the optical unconscious of the camera and bounce elusive feelings and absurd sensitivity.