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News Category: Bangladesh


Chittagong Hill Tract Children’s Books Part of HGSE Commencement Tradition


 

Maung Nyeu reads one of his books at the Mittal Institute Spring Art Exhibition

 

For nearly twenty years, new graduates of the Harvard Graduate School of Education have been carrying and waving children’s books as they enter Harvard Yard for the commencement ceremony. This tradition emphasizes the importance of children’s literacy and inclusion, as the books represent different cultures from around the world.

This year amongst copies of The Hungry Caterpillar and A Snowy Day will be several copies of Harvard Doctoral Candidate Maung Nyeu’s children’s books. These multilingual books are based on stories collected by children of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh. The books contain moral and civic values and the wisdom of generations and help revitalize endangered languages and revive vanishing cultures.

Nyeu’s project is possible due to funding from the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute for his travels to mountain villages of Bangladesh to visit schools and collect stories.  The funding enabled him to publish and distribute books in Bangladesh. So far, he has distributed over 6,000 of these books to children who never owned a children’s book in their lives. With the support of a Mittal Institute summer grant, he plans to return to CHT and distribute 4,000 more copies. 

 

Links to other articles about Nyeu’s books:

“People Making Difference” in Christian Science Monitor 
 The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute featured story “Saving a culture, book by book”
National Geographic Society: First Person: Save a Language, Save a Culture.
Stories Matter: Harvard Graduate School of Education
Nyeu’s Website

 

Q+A: Building Relationships as a Documentary Photographer


 

 

. He recently gave a presentation titled “Cha Chakra: Tea Tales of Bangladesh,” chaired by Professor Sugata Bose with commentary by Curator Alison Nordström, in which he displayed his long-term documentary photography research project on tea industry. The project sheds light on the plight of the tea garden workers of Bangladesh who are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable laborers in the world, yet are strangely invisible to the global media. Currently, the project concentrates on labor rights and conditions within Bangladesh’s tea industry, which are a direct result of a long history of colonialism and oppression. This project aims to collect the undocumented history of the global tea industry through photography, oral histories, and archival materials.

 

His other ongoing projects include Rohingya: The Stateless People, The Fantasy Is More Filmic than Fictional: Bangladesh Film Industry and Life in Progress: People Living with HIV.

 

Before his return to Bangladesh, we talked with him about his art practice and time here at Harvard.

 

What experiences motivated you to work on themes surrounding social justice?

I work with various art mediums to explore what is happening around the world. When I was a University student, I was looking for avenues to express my thoughts about what was happening around me. During that time, I worked on films, documentaries and was involved in different cultural movements.  I realized that photography was the best medium to express both my individual views as well as speak about the experiences of larger groups of people. 

I started working on social justice issues as a journalist. For instance, I first went to the Tea Gardens on an assignment to cover the tea workers’ movement. I soon realized that the plight of the tea workers is a deeply rooted issue that the media cannot adequately cover in a few journalistic reports, so I decided to work on the project long-term.

 

What has been your approach to photographing your subjects?

The logical approach is to spend time with the people I photograph. For example, I stayed in the Tea Gardens with the workers for many days. I talked to them and got to know their stories. I believe that collecting testimonies and oral histories are an important part of the work. One challenge is that people will always see me as “other” because I see them from outside, and vice versa.

 

What are some of the strategies that you use to connect to your subjects?

As a student, I studied research methods. However, over time I have developed an intuitive approach. For example, I drink tea with the tea workers to spend time with them and get to know them. My intention is not to intervene in their lives, but rather to talk to them and invite them to ask me what I want and why I am there. It is important for me to become friends with the people I work with because otherwise, it is tough to get stories from people. As a storyteller, I believe everybody has a story to tell, however, collecting the stories is not always easy. People have to trust me and that requires time to build the relationship.

 

What is the rationale behind having multiple ongoing projects?

For me, as a documentary photographer, it is important to work on subjects for a longer period. I see most of my works as long-term projects. It is tough to wrap up a story within a short span of time.

 

What has been your experience at Harvard?

It has been an incredible opportunity to be able to access Harvard’s library and museum resources as a researcher and to dig deeper into my studies. It is difficult for me to access comparable archives and libraries as a freelancer. Additionally, Cambridge is a cosmopolitan area where I have met people from different areas of the world. It has been fascinating and helpful for my journey as an artist.

 

How did your seminar go?

The seminar brought together people from different professions as well as students, faculty, and representatives from the Bangladeshi community. Even the person I am subletting from came! It was inspiring to present my work in front of such a diverse audience. The audience was asking incisive questions, so it was a very good learning experience for me. It was a collective effort to organize the seminar, and I am grateful to Professor Sugata Bose, Curator Alison Nordstrom, Aniket De (Ph.D. student in history) and the Mittal Institute staff.

 

The Mittal Institute Hosts Student Research Art Exhibition


Sacred Groves, Prathima Muniyappa

Picture 1 of 13

Sacred Groves, Prathima Muniyappa

 

 

On Wednesday, April 4th, the Mittal Institute hosted an opening reception for its Spring Art Exhibition, “Showcasing Research in South Asia Through Visual Arts.” It features 2D and 3D art and artifacts inspired by Harvard students who traveled to South Asia sponsored by Mittal Institute travel grants. The show was curated by Sheliza Jamal (Graduate School of Education) and Neeti Nayak (Graduate School of Design). At the event, we chatted with them about the show. 

 

How did you get involved with this showcase? 

Neeti: While I was doing my research, I realized that there were a lot of art projects that were tangential to the research that I was doing. However, I couldn’t really talk about them when I was doing my thesis project.  I wanted a way to showcase the arts-based side of my project, and I was sure there were other students who had similar motivations. I chatted with Amy [at SAI] and she liked the idea, and we decided to do something about it.

Sheliza: Amy [at the Mittal Institute] told me about the opportunity for an art show, and I jumped at the chance because I am interested in anything art-related.  

 

How did you choose the theme “Showcasing Research in South Asia Through Visual Arts”? 

Neeti: I’m working on a degree in master’s in design engineering, and we have a heavy focus on interdisciplinary work. To be interdisciplinary, you have to present your work in a way that is digestible by a lot of disciplines. And that’s why being visual is the most important thing [in bringing it to other audiences].

 

What was your favorite part of the show? 

Sheliza: The images, pieces of art, and artifacts are all manifestations of research in South Asia. Reading about how [the students] were inspired to take a picture, bring an artifact back, or create an original piece of work, was the most inspiring part of curating the exhibition.

Neeti: My favorite part of the show was working with a co-curator who had a completely different perspective on things. We came together to look at the layout of the show and choose the kind of images that best represent a certain line of research. 

 

What was the submission process like? 

Sheliza: We emailed the database of Mittal Institute grant recipients, and we asked them to submit an image of either an artifact, a piece of work that they had done, or a photograph they had taken while conducting research in South Asia. They also provided a short description so we would get an idea of their research and what that visit meant to them. We wanted to include as many pieces of art as possible, be inclusive as possible, and keep in mind the different regions. We didn’t want to have everything from one country. We were pleased that the exhibit has pieces from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Nepal.

Q + A with Hasna Jasimuddin Moudud: The Secret History of the Silk Road


Hasna holding a piece of Indian pottery design from India Gate, Mongolia

 

Poet and lover of secrets, Hasna Jasimuddin Moudud, has journeyed the Silk Road in search of mysterious connections across centuries and borders. She is the author of “Mystic Poetry of Bangladesh” and “Where Women Rule: South Asia.” She is currently a Mittal Institute Research Affiliate, a former Senior Fellow at the Harvard University Asia Center and a former Visiting Fellow at the Harvard University Ash Center.

In an interview with SAI, Hasna shares the inspiration behind her quest to traverse the Silk Road in an attempt to uncover the lost links between Mongolia and India via Bangladesh. 

Hasna will give a seminar on her poetic journey titled “The Silk Road to South Asia: From Mongolia to Bangladesh” on Tuesday, March 27th at 4pm.

How did you first become interested in studying the Silk Road and Buddhism?

The Silk Road is a road from the past that connected people through trade — both in open material and secret spiritual goods. In translating 1,000-year-old Buddhist mystic poems, I discovered how the poems traveled from Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan to Tibet and Mongolia through the Silk Road. The poems are lost now but preserved far away. Art, books, and secret tantric teachings traveled the Silk Road through secret passages in the Himalayas.

My interest in poetry grew through my father who was a great poet. We lived near the Kamlapur Buddhist monastery. After my long-awaited visit to Tibet, I learned how people from far away revered Atisha. However, besides the Buddhist priests, people in his birth country, Bangladesh, did not know about Atisha. I see myself as his daughter — and I am devoted to introducing Atisha Dionakara Srigana to his people in Bangladesh.

 

What are some of the questions that led to your trip to Mongolia?

I always felt that India had a very close connection with Mongolia, despite being so far away — deserts and mountains could not keep India and Mongolia apart. I wanted to find these connections by traveling to Mongolia. Last year, I attended the World Poetry Congress in Mongolia and found some answers.

My proposal that the Silk Road came through Bangladesh, connecting Mongolia with Bangladesh — intrigues people, for it is a secret history.

 

There is something poetic about your physical journey to discover the lost connections between Mongolia, India, and Bangladesh. I noticed that you also have published on poetry. Could you describe the role of poetry in the way that you conduct your research?

I sometimes call myself a writer and a poet, who loves nature. My research is about restoring and conserving the world’s lost and natural heritage.

It is exciting to imagine how these Silk Road riders rode off, some to make money and others not, with a great sense of necessity — an urge to be a part of a race into the unknown — an urge shared with animals. It is a call of nature, just as the mountain and the sea often call me. Poetry opens roads to unusual places.

 

What has been the most surprising part of your research?

Sometimes information comes as a revelation and I do not have to research; it appears — like a piece of a poem.

Additionally, as a masters student of old English literature, translation, and manuscript reading, I have a self-acquired specialization on handling old manuscripts, bringing in new meanings and focusing on the world of their period.

 

What is a common misconception about the Silk Road?

That it exploits cultures and brings deadly diseases like the plague, or that the Silk Road belongs to one country.

 

Who are some of the people that you have met on your travels in Mongolia?

I encountered writers and poets, Buddhist priests, homemakers, and every-day Mongolians. People, who do not speak my language, but share the mysteries of the desert. I met a young man who is a founder of his school belonging to the Kadamba sect of Buddhism — he said that he would pray for me.

 

What is the research that you have been conducting while at Harvard?

When I first started working on the Silk Road — or Roads — it was not so well known. During the last five to six years, suddenly everyone is talking about the Silk Road, even Barack Obama. It now has many names, with political and economic connotations that offer many theories and interpretations.

However, the Silk Road is the Silk Road. My interest was to bring the Silk Road to Bangladesh.

At Harvard, I spent my time in the libraries and museums, discovering a different library each week. The seminars and lectures have enlightened me. My research is about bringing peace in the world, nothing less. Since the Silk Road is not always about a single country, I see ways in which the Silk Road can continue to build connections between cultures.

SAI Hosts Four Artists from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India


 

SAI is pleased to announce our 2018 Visiting Artists, who will be at Harvard from mid-March to mid-May. During their time at Harvard, the artists will display their work on campus, meet with students, attend courses, and give public seminars.

Check back on our site for details about the seminars and exhibition.

 

Imran Channa, Pakistan

Imran Channa’s art practice interrogates the intersection between power and knowledge. His primary focus is on the documentation and dissemination of historical narratives and events. He explores how fabricated narratives can override our collective memory to shape individual and social consciousness and alter human responses. His work draws attention to the instruments of documentation, highlighting how photography, archeology, and literature record, frame and manufacture history. He is interested in how these modes pervert knowledge and the construction of consciousness.

Images of the 1947 partition of Pakistan and India are the central motifs of his practice. He reworks historical images to forge new narratives, relocate historical truth, and interrogate the influence of subjectivity. Photographs are often the only ways of retracing the past for subsequent generations who did not experience events first-hand. They are paradoxical — containing the capacity to understand fact as well as create fiction.

 

Rajyashri Goody, India and England

Rajyashri Goody’s art practice revolves around the complexities of identity seen through the lens of larger social, political, economic, and religious structures at play, and consequently the tug between power and resistance that manifests itself within minority communities. Her interests lie within the interpretation of caste in India, particularly the strengthening voice of Dalit resistance since the 1920s. Caste-based discrimination is still very much alive in both urban and rural India, with crimes against Dalits such as rape, murder, beatings, and violence related to land matters committed approximately every 18 minutes. Yet, as Sharmila Rege put it, there is an “‘official forgetting’ of histories of caste oppression, struggles, and resistance.”

Goody’s aim as an artist is to contest this “official forgetting” by drawing out both political and personal Dalit narratives and weaving them together to reflect upon everyday acts of resistance in the current sociopolitical climate of India. Her artworks, whether they take the form of installations, photography, or more recently, text and ceramics, often result from a series of conversations and interviews. One of her ongoing projects incorporates Dalit autobiographies, which contain vivid and complex descriptions of food, cooking, eating, and hunger. She highlights and recycles their extracts on food to create “recipes” from their own words, compiling a cookbook of sorts as an ode to everyday resistance and an act of resistance itself against “official forgetting.”

 

Kabi Raj Lama, Nepal

Kabi Raj Lama is a contemporary printmaker based in Kathmandu, who primarily works with lithography and the Japanese mokuhanga (woodcut) medium. His work examines themes of natural disasters, trauma, and religion. Lama sees the complexities of natural disasters as multidimensional — affecting both tangible and intangible worlds.

Kabi’s exhibition, “From Kathmandu to Tokyo” in 2014 reveals the trauma of his experience in Japan where he witnessed and lived through the catastrophic tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. The artist’s decision to work with woodcut medium on traditional Lokta paper served as a cathartic experience. The motifs in this series were inspired by the wreckage and havoc created by the tsunami, as well as the Fukushima radiation that destroyed cities, and took away uncountable lives on land and sea.

In 2016, Kabi Raj was away from his home at residencies in Germany and China, when the Great Earthquakes struck Nepal in 2015. The earthquakes killed 8,686, injured 16,808, rendered thousands homeless, and leveled heritage monuments and places of worship. Kabi’s prints made while in Germany and China are poignant narratives of memory and loss. His work explores what the earthquakes destroyed as well as what they revealed. One source of inspiration for Lama was the hidden sculptures from the inner sanctums of Kasthamandap, which the earthquake exposed to the public when the building came down. For one of Lama’s ongoing projects, he recently traveled to the Everest Region in an effort to capture the moment of the earthquake at the world highest peak. He prepared and carved wooden boards from which he has created several editions of prints.

 

Faiham Ebra Sharif, Bangladesh

Faiham Ebra Sharif is a freelance multimedia journalist and photographer, who has several years of experience working as a reporter, newsroom editor and presenter in national electronic media. Sharif’s areas of research include colonialism, climate change, ethnic minorities, film, human rights, indigenous people, labor rights, migration, popular culture, refugees, Rohingya crisis, sports, tea industry and underprivileged children. He is involved with different cultural and political movements. Through his visual narratives and journalism, Sharif explores the lived-experiences of marginalized people both in South Asia and globally.

His current project, Cha Chakra: Tea Tales of Bangladesh sheds light on the plight of the tea garden workers of Bangladesh who are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable laborers in the world yet are strangely invisible to the global media. Currently, the project concentrates on labor rights and conditions within Bangladesh’s tea industry, which are a direct result of a long history of colonialism and oppression. This project aims to collect the undocumented history of the global tea industry through photography, oral histories, and archival materials. While at Harvard, Sharif plans to continue his archival research and collect materials related to the global tea industry from Harvard’s libraries and museums. He will also photograph the tea culture in USA and spread awareness about the phenomenon though public events and publications.

Other ongoing projects include Rohingya: The Stateless People, The Fantasy Is More Filmic than Fictional: Bangladesh Film Industry and Life in Progress: People Living with HIV.

 

 

Second Annual Mittal Institute Crossroads Program


 

Partners:

 

 

 

 

Co-Sponsors:
To be determined

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University (The Mittal Institute) Second Annual Crossroads Program is a fully-funded career development opportunity for students from the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Africa, who are the first in their families to attend college and may also be facing challenging financial and social circumstances.

The 2018 program will run from September 23 – 28, 2018 at the DIFC Academy of the Dubai International Financial Centre (Dubai, UAE).

Leading Harvard faculty will teach an intensive, multidisciplinary four-day curriculum in Dubai, for accomplished, motivated youth.

This program is a collaboration between the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University, Harvard Business School Club of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Dubai International Financial Centre, with the support of Air Arabia, the Carlton Hotel, Dubai Future Accelerators, and Emirates Grand Hotel.

Applications will open March 15, 2018. Please find application instructions here.

 

Program details

  • Class size: up to 60 students
    • 150 candidates will be shortlisted. Shortlisted candidates will be asked to submit a 2-minute video sharing their leadership experience and why they should be considered for the program.
  • Location: Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai
  • Cost: FREE (The program will cover the costs of international travel, board, lodging and class materials. Visa costs are the responsibility of selected candidates.)
  • Application deadline: Tuesday May 31st, 2018 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST).  
  • Questions: Write to hucrossroads@gmail.com 

 

Faculty Leaders

  • Tarun Khanna is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director, the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University.
  • Karim R. Lakhani is Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, the Principal Investigator of the Crowd Innovation Lab and NASA Tournament Lab at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the faculty co-founder of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative.

Before contacting the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, please read through the answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Deadline Tuesday, May 31st, 2018, 11:59 PM EST. 

 


Looking Back, Informing the Future: The 1947 Partition of British India


IMG_9969 copy

Professor Jennifer Leaning discusses forced migration at one of our Partition seminars

 

By Tarun Khanna (Director, SAI; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School)

Both my mother’s and my father’s sides of our family migrated from what is now Pakistan. As a result of Partition, many of them had to leave their lives behind, with years of hard work quickly wiped out, when they moved to New Delhi and were forced to start again. Partition has always been part of my family’s folklore but my grandfather, who bore the brunt of it, passed away very early. I never had the opportunity to discuss it with him.

At the SAI, we have embarked on a major research project to understand the history, context and continuing impact of Partition, as its 70th anniversary approaches. There has, of course, always been a great deal of interest in this defining historical event from scholars at Harvard and elsewhere. Professor Jennifer Leaning’s team from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been studying Partition for more than a decade — her ongoing work is central to our collective research.

At the SAI, we have already undertaken a major interdisciplinary project of a similar scale. Our work on the Kumbh Mela was a very successful collaborative effort involving dozens of faculty, students, graduates and undergraduates. We created a platform so that other people could participate; scholars from the region as well as other universities around the world. We produced scholarly papers, videos, architectural designs and ultimately, a book.

Continue reading →

Student voices: Achievement gaps in state-regulated Madrasas in Bangladesh


This is part of a series of reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.W17_Faiyad Zayan

By Zayan FaiyadHarvard College ’18

Faiyad conducted field research during winter session to identify root causes of the achievement gap in state-regulated Madrasas in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, 13.8% of total primary school and over 20% of total secondary school enrollment are in Islamic schools, popularly known as Madrasas. An overwhelming majority of Madrasas are in rural areas, comprise primarily of students coming from low income families and are known to have a persistent achievement gap. Over winter session, I conducted interviews in several state regulated schools (Aliya Madrasa) across 3 districts: Dhaka (2 schools), Mymensingh (3 schools) and Chandpur (7 schools). I conducted interviews with 2 officials from the Madrasa Education Board in Dhaka, Madrasa administrators (mostly school principal or next point of contact), teachers and students.   

Experience with interviews: Although we had received prior commitment from 13 Madrasas allowing us to visit and speak with stakeholders, 1 male-only Madrasa denied our request to enter. The only admin official present in the premises said that that he was not informed about our arrival and the principal (our contact) was unreachable by phone. Other institutions were relatively welcoming. Some institutions had pre-designated which teachers we could speak to while others allowed us to interview any and all teachers. About half, generously allowed me to sit in classes and follow the lessons. Administrator and teacher responses varied in openness: most answered our questions with sufficient details, some sounded more guarded in their response and a few asked us what we hope to do with their answers.

Continue reading →

International Photo Contest Winners


Congratulations to the following Harvard College students, who were chosen by SAI as winners for the Office of International Education’s Annual International Photo Contest. Each year, undergraduates submit photos from their summer travels around the world, whether from study programs, grants, or internships, and SAI selects winners for photos from South Asia. The winners were announced at a reception on February 10.

Continue reading →

SAI responds to Executive Order


The South Asia Institute (SAI) fully endorses Harvard President Drew Faust’s response to the Trump Administration’s executive order restricting travel to the United States.

We offer our full support to Harvard students, faculty, staff and affiliates, regardless of their country of origin or religious background, alongside the Harvard International Office and the university’s Global Support Services. We encourage all South Asia scholars to apply for our programs.

The work of universities in the world has never been more vital. The SAI is committed to the advancement of global scholarship and understanding, and our work in this fascinating, important region will continue. Across many borders, our diverse students and scholars are aiming to generate knowledge and insights that transcend and outlive any temporary barriers to progress.

Harvard President Drew Faust: We Are All Harvard

Resources:

Harvard International Office

Harvard Global Support Services