Organised by Paraa as a part of the Chol X Shama Kun fashion campaign, a photo exhibition, titled ‘It’s not My Clothing, It’s Your Eyes!’, is currently underway at the Paraa studio. The exhibition started on February 12 and will end tomorrow.
Paraa is a design and architecture studio, focusing on enhancing spaces with communities in Bangladesh through multi-disciplinary practices. Chol provides a platform for fashion lovers, emerging designers and established artisans to be a part of the ethical and sustainable fashion movement.
Every woman and transgender woman in our country has to go through daily struggles when stepping outside their homes. The male gaze follows around women every day. This is a deep-rooted societal norm of objectifying women, the regularity and continuity of these practices are now acceptable in society. It is a given fact that once women step out of the house, they must deal with the gaze and they must do everything possible to avoid it.
The exhibition features photographs from a photoshoot at the Mohakhali Bus Terminal. Six women from six different backgrounds participated at the shoot wearing Chol X Shama Kun’s blouse collection. The main idea of this photoshoot was to raise awareness and address the issue of the male gaze in our society. It was arranged to celebrate the basic idea that women and trans people should be able to do, be and look as they desire or want, without the fear of the male gaze.
In the photoshoot done by photographers Tarannum Ali Nibir, Zaqiul Deep, Maruf Arefin Mim and Sadiqul Islam Shehab, six models participated in the campaign to address this issue and challenge this societal problem.
“Fashion is about expressing yourself, if you can’t express yourself wearing something, what’s the point? Our campaign is rooted in this point of view,” expresses Shama Kun, designer of the campaign. “The campaign is not about fashion, it is more about challenging this social stigma. The message we want to give is to let us be, if you want to compliment us then go ahead and compliment us, but you should not be giving us a look that makes us uncomfortable.”
“It’s them, it’s not me; it’s not my body, it’s their eyes,” shares a model. “If I’m comfortable with my shape, my body and everything else about me, people will have to get used to it,” says another model. “I participated in the shoot to express my womanhood more vibrantly,” shares Joya Sikder, a transgender model. “I expect to create an environment in our favor, to generate support towards women.”
At the exhibition, along with the photographs and a film screening, a booth with eyes has been created to reflect the uncomfortable male gaze. In the booth, people can share their experiences and struggles about this issue. These footages are being recorded and later will be published as a part of the campaign to show how people from different background feels about the issue.
“I’m deeply thankful to my team from Paraa and especially the models, who have done a wonderful and brave job,” shares Tarannum Ali Nibir. “We’re collecting people’s experiences regarding this particular issue. I am into the research and it is an ongoing process. We want to further continue to work on this campaign.”
Chol promotes eco-friendly fashion, revolving around the concept of saying no to the trends of ‘fast fashion’. Local artisans Saleha Begum, Bokuli Begum and their teams in Korail and Moyna Begum, Zayeda Begum and their team in Shatarkul have been making the individual pieces in this collection. Shama Kun and the Chol team used old sarees from different sources including Begumbazar, Old Dhaka and handwoven sarees from Koratia Haat, Tangail among others. They have been washed at Korail and then sewed into Kantha by artisans.
‘This is a sweatshop free, socially responsible collection, advocating for fair fashion, making positive social impact and an environmentally conscious living,” shares Shama Kun. “I am working with more than 20 female artisans from Korail in Gulshan and Shatarkul in Badda, helping them learn new skills and exploring traditional kantha making techniques, to create these individual bold pieces.”
On the opening day, Prothom Alo journalist Saiful Rahman hosted a talk with photographer Tarannum Ali Nibir and designer Shama Kun, along with the models who participated in the campaign.
On February 20, Chol arranged another open talk session. Hosted by Chol model, Safia Akhter, Raju Ahmed, documentary photographer, Nasrin Siraj, filmmaker and anthropologist, Trishia Nashtaran, designer & organiser of Meye network, Mehnaz Chowdhury, Sustainability scientist and artist, Ivan Ahmed Kotha, president of Sochetan Hijra Somaj Sangha, Joya Sikder, activist, Shama Kun, Tarannum Ali Nibir and Saiful Rahman among many others participated in the talk.
Tarannum Nibir has been collecting interviews of people about the issue, and a series of the documentary will be published soon. The first part of the film has already been released.