Joydeb Roaja's presentation at Art Basel Hong Kong draws from an immersive installation commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation for the recent edition of Dhaka Art Summit 2023, Bonna. Titled Submerged Dreams, five large works on paper take as their subject the events of 1962, when, under Pakistani rule, with American financial and technical support, the construction of the Kaptai dam flooded 400 km of Chakma land in what is now Bangladesh, even submerging the Chakma royal palace.
Curator Diana Campbell writes: 'Today, tourists in Bangladesh take boat rides over these beautiful waters, mostly unaware of the trauma submerged below the reflective surface that mirrors the sky. To the local indigenous Chakma people, this lake is the site of a heartbreaking event called Bor Porong, or 'the great exodus.' Over 100,000 people from about 18,000 families, mostly from indigenous communities, were displaced, resulting in the forced migration to neighbouring India of over 35,000 Chakmas and Hajongs. Dams and flooding are a shared weapon of violence against indigenous people all over the world. Roaja's installation imagines people from the Chittagong Hill Tracts raising the submerged palace from the bottom of the lake back up to the surface, a promise of hope for renewed ways of life after the flood. Part of the artist's making process involved interviewing multiple generations of indigenous people who remember life before the dam, and also younger generations who have only heard about life before the dam via storytelling and oral tradition.'
'I went to Rangamati for the first time as a college student and saw Kaptai Lake,' writes Roaja. 'A local friend showed me the location of the Chakma palace from a distance, and I saw a tree branch in the middle of the deep water. From then on, there was a wish that one day I would dive into the lake with diver's clothes and see the palace with my own eyes. Not only Rajbari, if possible we want to see hundreds of flooded villages.'
Joydeb Roaja has an interconnected performance, painting, and drawing practice that highlights the challenging social and political landscape of Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts. The area is home to eleven indigenous groups including Roaja's community, the Tripura. His works are tied to the experiences of indigeneity, often emphasising the deep and symbiotic connection of these groups with their land as well as the fight for recognition and rights in a state that has denied them.
Private View (by invitation only)
Tuesday, March 21, 12 noon to 8pm
Wednesday, March 22, 12 noon to 5pm
Thursday, March 23, 12 noon to 2pm
Friday, March 24, 12 noon to 2pm
Saturday, March 25, 11am to 12 noon
Wednesday, March 22, 5pm to 9pm
Thursday, March 23, 2pm to 8pm
Friday, March 24, 2pm to 8pm
Saturday, March 25, 12 noon to 6pm