An archive of Bangladeshi queer migrants in the U.S.

Acrylic on paper

In the painting, there are ten birds with imaginary features of butterflies trying to make a nest. These birds are my signature work and have appeared in previous artworks. As I was listening to the oral histories, I felt each queer migrant was either reminiscing their old homes or in search of a new one. In between homes, they are navigating state surveillance, the memory of trauma, displacement, and immigration paperwork. Therefore, I produced an image where these birds have complicated relationships with the process of homemaking. While some birds succeed in making a beautiful nest, some are lost and entangled in the web of strings.
Acrylic on paper, dried flower, digital image

I printed several copies of Nancy's digital image, scanned them in multiple sizes, and arranged the scans in different orders to finalize the composition of the collage. I tore the scanned image into two pieces, made a square slot into one of her eyes, pasted the pieces into my drawing book with 'super-glue'. Then I hand-painted the bird and abstract roots. The highlight of the collage is the dried dandelion which I attached between the two pieces of the scanned images. The entire process took place in several days. The dandelions were collected beside my house in Khulna. I couldn't paste the flower directly into my artwork because the pappus (matured seed of dandelion) would fly around. So I treated the pappus with some glue to reduce wind dispersion. I book-pressed the seeds for several days and pasted them in the shape of a dandelion blowbulb into the image. While listening to Nancy's oral history, I felt her identity as Bangladeshi-American strongly resembled the floating seeds of dandelions.
Acrylic on paper, digital image

I printed and scanned multiple images of Sunny. I tore the scanned copy by hand to get an organic cutting line. I pasted the torn pieces into the surface, painted the nest, and the bird. The process of painting the nest: I painted the nest black and then washed it with orange, red, blue, and green colors. I assigned the bird chorui (sparrow) to Sunny, which signifies a hardworking homemaker.
Acrylic on paper, digital image, ink

This is the second one of Indira's collage. I didn't like the first one. The process is the same. I scanned four portraits of Indira, tore them into pieces, and pasted them onto the surface. I loved their hair color and thought it's a significant part of their personality so I used the colored portion of the scan. The nest was drawn by using acrylic color. I painted the bird in a similar process and added a blue nest on top connecting the hair. When I finished painting, I realized I trapped the bird inside the white square. So the square signifies the border the person is trying to cross. The most interesting feature of the image is the triangle. I found Indira to have a resilient and strong personality. Triangle is known as the strongest of all kinds of geometric shapes. If you put pressure at any corner of a triangle, it makes the structure even stronger. I also added a third eye and painted strings on top of it. I feel eyes are the windows to our hearts. We experience our life through it. And it felt Indira was telling their story through the memory of their third eye. I also added a hand-drawn fingerprint-like motif that resembles a maze.
Acrylic on paper, digital image, ink, photoshop

I at first attempted to do it digitally. It was quite an elaborate process. Later, I returned back to the collage-making process. I used scanned copies of two portraits and tore them by hand. I pasted them in a way that created a square slot in the middle. I painted the bird and finally the roots. The specialty of this image is the luggage that is holding up the collage. The luggage is also made up of the abstract roots you see over all of these artworks. In his oral history interview, Rasel spoke about how he was forced to leave Bangladesh with a piece of half-packed luggage. He said how the luggage that was never full symbolizes his homemaking experience in the U.S. I wanted to see the luggage so I asked him to send me a photo. I didn't want to paint yet another luggage. I thought there must be something that makes it Rasel's luggage. And I saw a red string attached to his luggage when he sent the photo. Finally, I scanned the collage and digitally added a blue and pale orange layer on the top and bottom parts of the image. I was thinking about the shift in weather from tropical to semi-continental where the winter is really strong. I was also thinking about how it represented the opposite side of the color wheel. I painted a dead bulbuli (nightingale) in the middle square. I assigned bulbuli to people whose migration was linked to Xulhaz's murder. Bulbuli nirob nargis boney was one of Xulhaz's favorite Nazrul songs.
Gyotaku, Acrylic on paper, Digital image, Ink, Photoshop, Hand-stitching

Atif has a deep connection with fishing that I think is linked to his hometown Barisal, which lies in the delta of Padma and Jamuna rivers. I used a famous printmaking technique developed by the Japanese fishermen community called Gyotaku. Through this art form, the fishermen kept a record of their catches. So I felt this practice has an interesting relationship between artmaking and archiving. My father bought tilapia fish from the market at my house in Khulna. I inked the whole fish with a thick layer of red acrylic color, placed a damped cotton piece of fabric around the fish, and created a print by gently pressing and rubbing the surface. I washed, dried, pressed, and cut the fabric into two pieces. These pieces were attached to the surface of the paper with glue. Atif's oral history has a violent and chilling encounter of witnessing the murder of Xulhaz and Tonoy. Cutting the fabric into two pieces and the choice of acrylic color may have a connection to it. The rest of the process is pretty similar. I tore the scanned copies of Atif's portrait, made a rectangular hole in the right side, and pasted them to the paper. I painted a bird in the square slot and drew straight red lines to connect the gap between the two parts. I scanned the whole piece and changed the color of the right side of the face to a warm orange. Finally, I used a sewing machine to create the red and green fingerprint pattern around the head. The stitch also connects the paper and fabric together. Atif brought katha (Bangladeshi hand-stitched quilted blanket) at the time of his migration to the U.S. He takes a strong sense of pride in his Bangladeshi identity and heritage.
Fabric, Digital image, Ink, Dried Flowers, Glue, Cross-stitch

Faisal's artwork took a long time to do research even though the actual time of making it was short. I didn't like the first version so I made a second attempt. I used a plain white fabric with a lower thread count and cross-stitched the fabric by using a machine with a red thread across the surface. Then I removed some threads from all sides of the white fabric to create a flower-like pattern. Two scanned copies of the same portrait in black and white and color were torn by hand and pasted to the surface of the fabric. I glued some pre-dried and pressed rongon (Jungle geranium) at the surface of the paper. Faisal's interview was fun to listen to as he was sarcastic and witty. However, his intimate relationship with Xulhaz and migration-related depression made me use a color that represents the blood in a whimsical way. The loose ends of the red thread create an illusion of dripping blood in the mind. The cross-stitched pattern represents the amalgamation of the past and present and is also a metaphor for the nest.
Fabric, Acrylic on paper, Digital image, Ink, Dried Flowers, Glue, Cross-stitch

This was my last work. I had a mental health breakdown in between finishing this piece. Just to be clear, my mental health circumstances were not linked to this project. I took a white piece of fabric with a lower thread count. I colored the fabric with a warm orange color and pasted it on the paper surface. I used a color print of Sharmin's portrait, tore it into two pieces, and pasted it onto the paper. The abstract nest was painted at the bottom. In this artwork, I used a rectangular white fabric to create the slot for the bird. Machine stitch was used to attach the rectangle to the orange-colored surface. An irregular machine stitch with a red thread connected the whole piece together. I painted the bird on separate white paper and stitched it with a white thread on top of the rectangular fabric. I scanned the full piece and edited it in photoshop before finalizing it.

Suhaila is depicted with a warm glow of light around them. There are three reflections around them. The luminating head depicts Suhaila's commitment to helping others, their will to connect with their family, their quest of being able to be themself and much more. The reflections depict the versions of them they transformed from. They are also versions of Suhaila from the point of view of their parents. Their parents are depicted in the image as the other two heads. They do not interact with or recognize Suhaila's luminance but they are a non threatening presence with them regardless.

I depicted this feeling of discomfort as a swarm of cockroaches crawling on your skin. Who do not bite with chronic venom but their presence is difficult to remove. They are discomforting. If not attended to, they also have the potential to slowly kill you.
I do not think Puja is confronted by all of her discomfort at the same time. Depending on the situation, they take turns. Therefore all the cockroaches are not on their skin. There is a group of cockroaches on the floor waiting for their turn - depicting their past/future discomforts. Puja is aware of them so the head is placed in a way where they can see all the bugs.
The shadow represents the imprints of the trauma caused by their experiences. Puja casts a shadow of the bugs where they are supposed to cast a shadow of themself. This depicts the fragmentation of puja's identity.
Regardless of its reality, Puja also casts a shadow of a flower on the wall. One that they hold close to them. It is placed in a way where it can be depicted in several ways. The flower can be kept with puja for themself or it can also be offered to others. The flower represents puja's ability to find the sense of self, adapt, make home, form relationships, and build community.

I saw Huhu as someone who has negotiated with their surroundings in every single aspect of their life. The several minutes of disclaimer revealed the fragmentation of their mind. Also, in their interview, I sensed a sense of fear. Fear that perhaps came from the commendable process of unlearning. Fear of exceeding some sort of a line. I noticed that it was often disguised by jokes, laughter or exaggerated sarcasm.
I used the likeness of an inflated balloon with thorns around it to depict a sense of caution. The proximity of the thrones to the balloon is kept ambiguous to let the viewer decide. This depicts their past experiences of unlearning. However, the balloon faces towards the fourth wall where the audience is again free to imagine a thorn-less vast open space which depicts their ability to move forward and grow to their fullest.