Tongue Tied: Highlighting Under Appreciated Cultural Elements Through Photography and Art

The creative arts have always been a weapon of self-expression, social and political commentary, and enhancement of tradition. As such, Habiba Nowrose, a lens-based artist, is passionate about speaking about women’s rights, gender identity and mythology through her work. She is also keen to exemplify the simplicity of Bengali culture through her work, which is meticulously prepared by taking detailed mental notes of the objects, colors and patterns that fascinate and ground her in her work. His creative eye plays a crucial role in his image making.

As a lens-based artist, Habiba does not refer to photography alone, as she believes that photography alone does not fully capture the essence of her work. From its setup, scene preparations, shooting process, and articulating the scene of the photo, there’s a lot to capture its vision. She uses this platform to express herself and her ideals given her passion for the arts since childhood. She was unable to pursue her passion until university, which led her to traditional fine art and photography. In addition, her academic background in gender studies gave her a better understanding of gender and sexual politics in society, which inspired her to work on gender issues. His curiosity to explore more intricacies for Bengali society has always been prominent and has led to his exhibition “Tongue Tied”, launched on February 25, 2022 and will run until March 10, 2022 at the Alliance Française.

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The theme of this exhibition is the heritage and tradition that we tend to run away from. Using food, something similar to assemblage, Habiba carves her subject into a frame that would make the audience see something unique yet familiar. As Bengalis, food items like ‘Shutki’, ‘Bhuri’, ‘Moa’, ‘Hawai Mithai’ are an integral part of our souls. However, with modern times and the elitist mentality, some rarely admit to liking these foods in public. Sometimes there is an element of discomfort and inferiority associated with admiring these traditional foods. Habiba’s “Tongue Tied” addresses this discomfort and stigma surrounding these culturally unique objects that shape our identity.

Habiba also incorporates textiles into her work. There are certain types of clothing that we tend to associate with the lower classes that lack sophistication. With the minimalist trend being so popular, someone might consider bright, bold colors unappealing. Habiba’s work aims to change perceptions by taking those traditional, simple garments, which people often don’t recognize as tasteful, and presenting them in idiosyncratic ways.

Habiba says, “I tried to keep those elements present in my art. In particular, the element of discomfort that is associated with basic traditional clothing and food, which are unique aspects of who we are as Bengalis.”

Unlike most artists, Habiba does not try to tell a holistic story through his portraits and photographs. Rather, she takes her concept and draws inspiration to create an overarching concept illustration. Essentially, the audience is not seeing a story or a journey of its subject, but experiencing a concept in different forms. In ‘Tongue Tied’, audiences experience the modern-day discomfort associated with multiple foods and clothing, through various shapes and sculptures.

By Puja Sarkar

Photo: Habiba Nowrose

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