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Three people sit in front of a red and orange mural with text and the silhouette of a figure sitting, gagged and hands bound. The three people in the picture have painted their hands and faces in white, orange, and pink.

We Shall Defy: Shahidul Alam

May 6-July 16

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“Freedom is the oxygen that democracy breathes…Despite the climate of fear, the arrests, disappearances, extra judicial killings, torture and death, people still resist.” -Shahidul Alam

In keeping with our commitment to providing a platform for art that engages the critical issues of our time, Wrightwood 659 hosts We Shall Defy, an important exhibition of images and texts that illuminate the life and work of the renowned Bangladeshi photojournalist, teacher, writer, institution-builder, and activist Shahidul Alam (b. 1955), whose efforts on behalf of human rights have provoked both accolades and imprisonment.

Alam has been a longtime campaigner for social justice and also has challenged the global dominance of Western media. Alam’s resistance is evidenced through his art and activism, but also through the institutions he has built. This has often led to confrontation with the powerful elite of his native Bangladesh. Through photographs and text by Alam and his creative partners: illustrations and shlok (verse) in Bangla by Amal Akash; sketched descriptions of Alam’s life in jail by Sofia Karim; and a timeline by Naeem Mohaiemen and his team, We Shall Defy maps a compelling and relevant testimony to the power of the human spirit and the fragility of democracy.

Among his myriad accolades, Alam is a CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner from 2020, and a Time magazine Person of the Year from 2018.

Support for this exhibition is provided by Alphawood Foundation Chicago.


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