There is a Bangla phrase that goes on redirecting a funny yet witty meaning: "Chagol'er tritiyo baccha lafay beshi" (the goat's third child jumps more). Will come to this reference later, but first, we need to put the focus on something else. Bangladesh, as a country, existed under three vital phases in history - first, it was named "East Bengal" under British India which continued till 1947, then it was called "East Pakistan" under Two-Wing Pakistan until 1971, and finally, it received its status as "Bangladesh", a sovereign country in South Asia - after the 1971 Liberation War between the then-two-wings Pakistani states. Given these movements, reversals, and renewals - the idea of Bangladesh has been contingent and fluid.

Author Naeem Mohaiemen, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Columbia University in New York City, USA and one of the modern-day luminaries in Bangladesh, an ardent filmmaker and author - has another vital identity, as he is also a flamboyant essayist. His anthology of essays titled "Midnight's Third Child", a recent publication from Nokta Arts in association with the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) Press, foreshadows a common phrase that suggests that the youngest needs to strive for maternal sustenance, and it also proposes a clarity of purpose from being the last born. Some of these essays first appeared in three Bangladeshi publications - Daily Star, Dhaka Tribune, and Depart magazine, a bi-annual publication from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Cultural workers can reinforce essentialist ideas around this region, or they can choose to challenge majoritarian views. With this being the core idea behind the essays, this book is also the author's satirical response to the title of world-famous novelist Salman Rushdie's popular book "Midnight's Children" (1981). In addition to the response, the intended reference points to what was left out of the majority of postcolonial art history and the many fates of the geography of Bangladesh. The people, projects, and conversations in this anthology have frequently taken on the role of speaking back against inertia and conformity.

Incorporating this mission, an engaging discussion centring author Naeem Mohaiemen's this latest book recently took place at the ULAB Research Building Auditorium in the capital's Dhanmondi. The book was launched at the event, inaugurating a series of captivating conversations across the country. This inaugural session was titled "Naeem Mohaiemen in conversation with Zafar Sobhan" and began with introductions by Professor Shamsad Mortuza, adviser to ULAB Press, and Zafar Sobhan, founding editor of the Dhaka Tribune.

Introducing the book as an anthology "dealing with cosmopolitanism and consumerism", Prof Mortuza lauds the anthology as a multidisciplinary work that incorporates elements of anthropology, visual arts, and more in society. He also expressed his gratitude to the esteemed author, saying that the ULAB Press is proud to be associated with the publication. Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan, who was Mohaiemen's editor at The Daily Star (who at that time was the op-ed editor of the esteemed daily), and later in the Dhaka Tribune, then took the microphone and reminisced about Naeem Mohaiemen, the writer and the essayist he knew more than many others. His introduction shed light on their decades-long relationship as writer and editor - rather than Mohaiemen's identity as the award-winning visual artist and filmmaker. "In all of his writing and artistic endeavours, Naeem Mohaiemen has consistently placed Bangladesh, the Bangladeshis, and the intellectual community in the country first," Zafar Sobhan admired the author.

Naeem Mohaiemen then took the podium and narrated his own introduction of the book and its contents, readings from the introduction and an essay titled, "Documentary: Social Realism's Reality Quest". Speaking of the contents, the book features a total of 31 art luminaries and places - a.k.a - institutions, in the chapters of Hegemony, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Joydeb Roaja, Juktakkhor, Mrinal Sen, Louis Kahn, Salauddin Ahmed, Dhali Al Mamoon, Cheragee Pahar, Adman Blues, Musee Guimet, Social Realism, Shahidul Alam, Pathshala, Shumon Ahmed, Chobi Mela, Tareque Masud, S M Sultan, Molla Sagar, Rubaiyat Hossain, Amit Ashraf, Runa Islam, Sarker Protick, Depart, Razib Datta, Abir Shome, Firoz Mahmud, Taslima Nasreen, Numair Choudhury, Zia Haider Rahman, and Tayeba Begum Lipi.

"One final thing may tie things together-that is to emphasise that all of these texts came about through friendships and mentoring, conversations in private and public, through debates and arguments. As the fate of cultural workers grows ever more precarious, within the petri dish of capital accumulation, we must hold fast to friendships," Mohaiemen read from the introduction to the session.

The two then had a lively discussion on photography and loss in relation to the book's cover, how Mohaiemen selects his subjects and the people he writes for, and the glaring lack of critique in the Bangladeshi art scene. About the cover, Mohaiemen mentioned that Ali Morshed Noton captured the still image in which Tareque Masud (1956-2011), Dhali Al Mamoon (1958-), Unidentified, Syed Sajjad Hossain Jyoti (1959-missing 1993), and Mishuk Munier (1959-2011) were seen engaged in conversation during the shooting of Tareque Masud's 'Adam Surat' (1989) on artist S M Sultan (1923-1994) at Audiovision office in the capital's Lalmatia, in the year of 1986.

From the artists he put in the contents, the author discussed some of the contemporary artists and their creative process such as Abir Shome, whom he opined as a flamboyant creative. "There is something special about Abir's artworks which always intrigued me as a viewer and admirer. I remember at the Chobi Mela IX (2017) at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy), Abir Shome brought together a melange of text-based works that seemed opaque to the impatient visitor. Audiences have taken selfies in front of his row of empty frames with price tags; the colour splashes of the tags were the symmetrical "pretty" they wanted. Others have loudly rung his two bells, but have not paused to read the text above. On silver foil, "Imagine there is no statement. Only Lorem ipsum..." takes a dig at the tendency for over-explanatory artist statements to take away multiplicity of readings."

Showing his copy of the anthology to the audience, Zafar Sobhan said, "As you all can see, there are several pink tabs attached to my book as I have been reading for the past couple of days, yet to be finished. As already mentioned that this is an anthology of Naeem's thought-provoking essays written between the years 2009 and 2019, on artists and art movements in Bangladesh with a focus on cinema, literature, and visual arts. And it is my utmost pleasure that I have been an acquaintance in his journey by essays in The Daily Star and Dhaka Tribune."

After the conversation ended, there was an interesting question-and-answer session during which the topic of criticism, the need for further dialogues, art patronage, and the involvement of future generations of artists in the nation were all further explored. As part of the session, Naeem Mohaiemen then signed the books and invited everyone to collect the book and join future intriguing conversations just like this one. The conversation at ULAB was held on May 24 while the Bengal Institute and Nokta Arts jointly hosted another session on the following day at the Bengal Institute in Banani, which focused more on the architecture-based essays and another captivating conversation between Naeem Mohaiemen and Salauddin Ahmed, the founder and lead architect at Atelier Robin Architects and Bengal Institute's Director of Curatorial and Design Program. On May 26, the Coxs' Bazar book launch event of the anthology was held at the Allegro Art Cafe in the Cox's Bazar and the artist in conversation with Mohaiem was Joydeb Roaza, an artist from the Tripura community of Chittagong Hill Tracts. about whom Mohaiemen mentioned in his essays.

The book is currently available at and fbclid=IwAR39fGsXHqqVQF0lR_TdgT0NoOJL7TusBywYkBsng5KuMyRrsqNgv_ol_ks

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