Lola Flash challenges conceptions of race, gender and sexuality in her first major solo exhibition in London
At 10pm on 05 August, photographer and social activist Shahidul Alam was arrested at his home in Dhaka. The next day he was charged for violating Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT), after giving an interview to Al Jazeera on the current wave of student protests in Bangladesh against unsafe roads, in which he said that these actions stemmed from anger about widespread government corruption. He now faces up to 14 years in prison.
According to Amnesty International, which has taken up the photographer’s plight, Section 57 is a “draconian law” that has been used against well over 1000 people since it was introduced in 2006. “Police do not need arrest warrants or official permission to prosecute,” explains the organisation. “Those accused are mostly denied bail pending their trial and kept locked up for months with no official verdict. Shahidul himself was denied bail on 10 September 2018. Those arrested are often journalists who’ve published articles criticising the government.”
“I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other,” says South African photographer Zanele Muholi. Born in 1972 in Umlazi, a township close to Durban, Muholi defines herself as a visual activist using photography to articulate contemporary identity politics. In her latest series, Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness, she uses her body to confront the politics of race and representation, questioning the way the black body is shown and perceived.
“When 9/11 happened, I was four, so obviously I didn’t really know what was going on. But in terms of now, of how Muslims are portrayed in the media, I think it’s a very one-sided story. We’re all terrorists, evil, who want to take over this country. I mean, thinking back now, I was only four, so all I’ve experienced is that this country hates me.” So says one of the sitters in Mahtab Hussain’s You Get Me?, a series of portraits shot over nine years in Birmingham, Nottingham and London. It shows young, working class, British Asian men, a group which has been negatively depicted in the media since 9/11 but which Hussain hopes to portray in a more nuanced way.