The Inception Grant solo show by Md. Zobayer Hossain Joati | Curated by Prima Kurien
In partnership with Triveni Kala Sangam
To say that Zobayer’s photographs merely document a sparring culture that has gripped the
underbelly of Bangladesh would at best deliver a meek punch to the cheek; the knockout jab,
however, comes when we realise what his images truly contain: an unbridled and volatile
tension that has long gone unnoticed.
No more. With We Live to Fight, Zobayer introduces us to the sweaty and dingy underground
world of flexed muscles, black-and-blue bruises, and cold staredowns – it is a spectacle, a
floodlit circus of hidden arenas and second-rate halls where we glimpse the fighter in a constant
state of preparation for the fight of its life. These are figures that rarely sit idle, and Zobayer’s
camera suspends such moments of exaggerated movement, teasing the viewer that is ready to
ask for more. In such brooding and dramatic documents, there emerges an implicit
understanding between us and the photograph: both acknowledge the catastrophic obviousness
with which a fight shall end, and yet, Zobayer holds back from letting us see the finishing blow.
His images spiral us into a rancorous frenzy, asking, demanding, to ‘let them have at it’; behind
drawn curtains and locked doors, we are left to our baser instincts, and this is where he zooms
in for the bigger picture.
Zobayer’s camera remains sharply trained on the calculated and reactionary manoeuvres that
are orchestrated in front of us. The black-and-white photographs – emphasising the timeless
nature of such a sport and pastime – introduce us to artists, boxers, and wrestlers that not only
hold our attention in a chokehold, but also honour a legacy of martial arts that has dotted the
Bangladeshi landscape for decades. It is a landscape that continues to nurture traditional
practices like ‘lathi-khela,’ ‘boli-khela,’ and ‘bhuttan,’ along with modern day boxing and
wrestling. Gore and glory go hand-in-hand; this is a world where mediated aggression becomes
a source of livelihood, of upliftment, of safety, of pleasure. Zobayer’s images leave us with an
intimacy of a life that exists beyond a scoreboard. It is what makes his practice dramatically
inspiring, for these are images that provide us with a courtside view of the lives of the fighters,
and not just the game. No longer impassive and anonymous, and surrounded by chants and
cheers (and boos and hisses equally), we see the godly deliverance of not a fighter, but the
fighter. It is the very story of a resilient nation fighting for its place; a story Zobayer narrates with
Let’s get ready to rumble
Shankar Tripathi, 2023.
The Exhibition will move to Art Incept, Gurugram and will be on display until 25th November 2023.