Since its inception in 2000, Chobi Mela, the international festival of photography has been the most significant photographic event in Asia, and the first of a regular biennale. Jointly organised by Drik Picture Library Ltd. and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, it is considered the world’s most demographically diverse photo festival.
The tenth edition of Chobi Mela was held from February 28 till March 9, 2019. It was staged under difficult conditions, partly due to Festival Director Shahidul Alam’s imprisonment of over a 100 days for having criticised the government.
The celebrated Indian writer Arundhati Roy was amongst the many who campaigned for his release. Arundhati wrote Shahidul a letter while he was in jail to mark the PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Shahidul wrote back after coming out on bail.
This was the first visit of Arundhati Roy to Bangladesh. Police permission which was obligatory for the talk at the Krishibid Institute, was withdrawn the night before the talk. Attempts were also made to skittle the event after it was shifted to a new venue. This was widely criticised by prominent citizens and the general public. The talk was finally held, though it was delayed by 45 minutes, and faced other problems.