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Dhaka: Faith Is A Bird 
Dipu Malakar

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Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.


                                               — Rabindranath Tagore





In a mercilessly glaring delta sun, machine parts and textile products are salvaged or fashioned by the underpaid hands of cheap labor. In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, willing workers abound and are easily exploited in this megacity that subsists on the backs of the influx of rural poor. Since surviving an ethnic genocide and gaining their independence in 1971, they have learned to cultivate the national traits of remaining resourceful and uncomplaining in the face of unrelenting adversity.


Though perhaps it is precisely because of their cursed capacity for suffering that they have been exploited by the shady labor practices of both domestic and foreign corporations, displaced via illegal land grabs, dislocated by the profound depredations on their natural environment, not forgetting a dubious and predatory globalization that encroaches at every border crossing, hotel and airport, and which encourages both governmental and corporate corruption (the incentives of which almost always originate from beyond those borders). Bangladeshis are among those who have become the cheap human fuel that keeps this megacity (and the first and developing worlds' markets) moving in the globalized marketplace. 

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All Photographs ©2024 Dipu Malakar  

                              Click on image to expand


"Most of all beware, even in thought, of assuming the sterile attitude of the

spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of griefs is not a proscenium,

a man who wails is not a dancing bear."


                            — Aimé Césaire, Return to My Native Land


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While the aftereffects of the 2008 global banking crisis continue to cannibalize all cultures in their path (regardless of first- or third-world status), hydra-headed megacities like Dhaka exploit huge segments of the third world's working poor, aggressively feeding on child labor, unsafe working conditions and spurious "by-necessity" decimation of the natural environment. This, in a delta  landscape where the word "river" should equate with the most fundamental notions of life (even in economic terms). 


As a result of an ever-globalizing world economy, the interconnectedness of derivatives-driven markets, resource-defined ecologies, rigged trade agreements, and shock-and-awe speculation, the West is once again violently crashing into the East—no thanks to the western mainstream media for having failed to stir up the dregs of rice bowls now empty of easily discarded truth. 



Beneath a mercilessly glaring delta sun...


random parts and products that will end up in Europe, China and the United States are fashioned or salvaged by the underpaid hands of a people forced to provide cheap labour. Despite this bleak scenario, I have met the most remarkable men, women and children on the streets of Dhaka, from Old Town to Gulshan and beyond, who have somehow managed to keep their faith alive with a minimum of means. They are remarkable, if only because many of them, in fact, will survive.


 Article ©2024 James Williamson          

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Dipu Malakar is a staff photographer with A native of Dhaka, he has delved deeply into its streets and subcultures with his camera, capturing the city's mysteries, character, contradictions and fascinating walks-of-life with a scrupulous eye, a poetic sense and an open heart. His finely-honed vision draws out the joy of everyday living, the mystery, the adversity, as well as the heartache, the longings, the very essence of a people's life in a city they are forced to call home. 



You can see more of Dipu's work at

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