Humanising the Other

Friday night and it is our first Global Awareness lecture: Dr Shahidul Alam, Principal of Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography (Dhaka, Bangladesh) talks about Humanizing the Other. Using the medium that has been central not only to his own professional life but also his struggle for democracy (in 1984 especially, in the protests against General Ershad) he illustrates the way that human interaction remains mired in prejudice and stereotypes and has failed to make the progress that, for example, technological change has. Alerting us for example to the way that, in the early ’90s the movement for democratic change in Bangladesh did not fit the stereotype of Bangladesh as an icon of poverty and therefore did not catch the attention of the world media but the cyclone of April ’91 did, he asked us not only to question what we see but also to “question the lexicon”; why for example, does the G8 which represents 13% of the world’s population have a right to talk about the Developing World – isn’t the Majority World a better term? Not only was his talk an alert on these broad issues, but he also asked us to think about the effect on the image of the relationship between the person who takes the photo and the subject, recounting his work in enabling photographers from all parts of his own community to learn to be photographers and the need sometimes to “take the Gallery to the People,” putting photographs onto mobile displays so that people whose own actions can easily seem invisible to themselves are able to see them and their own issues. As with all brilliant talks, Shahidul’s manner – measured, calm, kindly and beautifully articulated – worked with the images he showed to illustrate his message: that we need to be active and engaged in all spheres – Politics, Culture and Education – in order to work against all the forces that stop us recognising other people – especially those who live far away –  as human beings.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.