Faiham Ebna Sharif
BANGLADESH
Faiham Ebna Sharif is a freelance multimedia journalist and photographer. Since my student days (Honors master’s in international Relations from the University of Dhaka), I have been involved with different social and cultural movements. I took up photography after working as a reporter, newsroom editor and presenter in national electronic media and working on academic and policy level research projects. My photographic exposure ranged from photojournalism to documentary practices. I received my Photography Diploma from Counter Foto, a photography school in Dhaka, and received masterclass training from Giulio Di Sturco and Philip Blenkinsop. In 2017, I received grants from the Magnum Foundation Fund and The Documentary Project Fund for my project on the tea industry. For the past two years, I have been an adjunct faculty member at Counter Foto and was Visiting Artist for the 2018 spring semester at Harvard’s South Asia Institute. Beside visual narratives, I regularly write text for reportage, travelogues, national & international photography and book projects and have worked in feature films, documentaries and international reality shows. My research foci include climate change, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, popular culture, Rohingya refugees, sports, tea garden workers and underprivileged children. I am also active in ‘Committee for Documentation of Architectural Sites in Dhaka’.
Cha Chakra: Tea Tales of Bangladesh
This is an ongoing documentary photography research project documenting the deprivation and inhumane conditions that have plagued the social, cultural, political and economic lives of tea garden workers of Bangladesh for over a century. These workers are among the lowest paid laborers in the world yet strangely invisible in the eyes of the global media. Originally, tea garden workers were brought to Bangladesh from states of undivided India by British colonial rulers during 1840-50s. Now, approximately a million people of 90 different ethnic minorities work in the tea gardens with a completely different life than the majority ‘Bangalee’. Mass migration of labor and pre-existing social divisions among ethnic minorities within the labor community were among the key issues the companies used to their advantage to introduce an “enclave economy” within the tea “estates” in colonial India. The colonial structure which denied workers from owning any land in one of the world’s oldest agrarian civilizations is still intact, a present-day feudalism, denying the workers the capacity of engaging in any kind of individual or collective bargaining. The British management system, credit and auction facilities in the pre and post-production period, estate rules along with its own rituals, and a quasi-trade union which best serves owners: all these features are still evident in today’s tea industry. Poor access to accommodation, education, healthcare and sanitation systems, safety at work, gender discrimination and most of all, extremely low wages ‐ all these exploitations complement a theoretical framework that produces the second most consumed drink of the world with the hands of some of the cheapest laborers in the global economy. Provided Taka 85 a day (just over USD $1) and other marginal benefits, a permanent worker in a grade garden, has the most “secured” life according to the law. Hence the “aura” of the centuries-old feudal structure is still evident in the “estates within the state” resembling a master-slave relation. Thus, tea becomes one of those phenomena rather than products which left an incredible mark on workers’ economic, social and political lives, still asserting its present-day influence. Current labor conditions in Bangladesh’s tea industry are a direct result of a long history of colonialism and repression of laborers stemming from the residue of one of the most degrading forms of colonial trade in the Indian subcontinent.

The Addis Foto Fest (AFF) was established in 2010 by award-winning photographer and cultural entrepreneur, Aida Muluneh. The festival is organized by Desta for Africa Creative Consulting PLC. AFF is a biennial international photography festival held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It has previously featured exhibitions, portfolio reviews, conferences, projections and film screenings in many different renowned venues. It is also the first and only international photography festival in East Africa.