a woman's war, photography, research

in memoriam: Fauzilla Tunnesa Bulu

Fauzilla Tunnesa Bulu, known to many as Bulu Khala, was born in 1919 in then-India. Fifty-two-years old when the Liberation War broke out, she is the oldest woman included in “A Woman’s War” from any country thus far.  Bulu Khala was a key driving force throughout the Liberation War, working to maintain the Kuchbihar refugee camp, as well as recruit and prepare mukti bahini (Bangladeshi guerrilla fighters) for battle. Last week, at the age of 93, living in rural Rangpur with her children and their families, Bulu Khala passed away.

When I met Bulu Khala in June 2011 at her home in Rangpur, in far northwest Bangladesh, she could barely speak – her family and friends provided much of this information on her behalf.  Though she found it difficult to move without assistance, just before we were leaving, she took my hand, kissed it, and quietly said I love you.  She then took my face and kissed it three times. Right, left, forehead. I love you.

She had barely known me for an hour.  I’ll never forget it.

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a woman's war, photography, research

a woman’s war: Bangladesh

An updated version of “A Woman’s War: Bangladesh.”  As featured on FotoVisura and as FotoVisura’s Photo of the Day.

A Woman’s War

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the birth of Bangladesh, a nation that emerged from a bloody fight for independence from Pakistan. The story of Bangladesh’s liberation struggle is one that is well told and well remembered by the nation; the official narratives are retold and exchanged often – and often by heart.  Stories of the origins of the movement, of its key players and events, of its Freedom Fighters, or mukti juddha, who came together to fight for Bangladeshi independence and emerged victorious in December 1971 after nine months of intense guerrilla warfare, are recounted in schoolbooks and events across the country, month after month, year after year. Continue reading

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research

women warriors: muktir gan

The orange light bounces off the harmonium cover as it falls to the ground next to the instrument.  Dalia pulls up a stool next to Shaheen, who now sits cross legged in front of the harmonium on the ground.  They exchange a few words in Bangla, interspersing laughs with lyrics and remembrances, recalling song titles with memories from days of 1971 along the Indian border.

These two women, Dalia Nausheen and Shaheen Samad, both were part of the singing troupe who traveled around to Freedom Fighter and refugee camps in India, singing songs of freedom, or muktir gaan, for the women and men training for the war, providing medical and logistical support, and sheltering themselves and their families.

I recently spoke to them both about their experiences serving in the musical troupe, and at the end of the conversation they offered to sing a few songs that they carried with them during those nine months of war.  Above, you find a short clip of one of the songs, Janater Sangram Cholbe Cholbe, by Sikander Abu Zafar.  They were as articulate as their voices are stunning – as soon as I have some of the transcript transcribed, I’ll be sure to share some of the conversation here.  For now, a little portrait of Dalia from before the song session.

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