PAPA Lab Dhaka 13-27 September 2014

OXFAM/NOVIB invited PAPA to do a PAPA Lab in Dhaka with a mix of photographers from DRIK and officers working in OXFAM/NOVIB and the partner organization YPSA. PAPA's method of reading the street in shared photo-walks gives an insight in the Tactics of Life in Dhaka.

The PAPA Lab led to PAPA Critical City Guide (CCG), a document that is used as a starting point for a co-creation workshop in Dhaka in October 2014 by Butterfly Works. The co-creation workshop's aim is to develop ideas for projects for the urban youth in several cities in South East Asia.

Participants are Adnan Wahid, HabibulHaque, Tapash Paul from DRIK, Arifur Rahman, Abdus Sabur from YPSA and Sumana Tanchangya, Dhana RanjanTripurafrom OXFAM NOVIB.

1. Happiness is from within

It's amazing how resilient the people are that you meet on the street here in Bangladesh. They are living under conditions that many of us would not endure for more than a week. That these Bangladeshi are additionally friendly, polite and cheerful is really beyond understanding. But is 'Happiness is from within' for all the people here? Is it the same for both rich and poor? Or just for those here, so visible to anyone, the people living on the streets?


I walk and take pictures, no matter what the subjects are. I take pictures of people, no matter if I know them. I take pictures, no matter if I am an intruder to the subjects. Through the camera I make a connection between them and me. I am active, they are passive! And it is sweet when people ask me take their pictures. Thus the connection is made by them, and I am an intruder no more.
18 September 2014 by Tapash Paul


DK.HH.9470 Through photography I have met countless people. Most of them are ultra-poor, they live hand to mouth. They become dark, harsh. But what amazes me is the honest smile which they can give, even in extremely hard times. It is said that a smile can win the world.
17 September 2014 by Habibul Haque


There is a saying by the Buddha: "Happiness comes from within, so do not seek it on the outside". This family managed to get a shelter in the waterlogged slum. Perhaps they do not even know what they could get to eat for tomorrow. But ignoring all these odds, the family still finds happiness living in this city under such conditions. Maybe because they do not have anything to loose.
16 September 2014 by Sumana Tanchangya

2: Using every possibility

To set up your shoe repair shop on less than a square meter in the middle of the sidewalk while pedestrians squeeze themselves past you, requires a high degree of professionality. Knowing how to bundle your shoe soles in different sizes, where to keep the yarn and glue so you can access it readily.
We see hundreds of ways in which men, women and children, in small places or moving in between cars, busses and rickshaws, run their own businesses. Very inventive, and although the streets are full of waste, a lot of it gets recycled. It is a true University of Life.


Dhaka is an opportunistic option for migrated people from many vulnerable parts of Bangladesh, who ended up living in the slum areas of the city. The innovative way in which they manage to survive in this city is phenomenal. The man in the picture found a possible livelihood for his survival.
14 September 2014 by Sumana Tanchangya


This young boy of sixteen is an expert on machines, with no training. He developed this skill by learning by doing, and he got an independent life out of it.
17 September 2014 by Sumana Tanchangya


There are many children in the city which run small businesses, not out of creativity or voluntarily. They have to do it to feed their family members. They often start with their parents from childhood and slowly become independent entrepreneurs.
17 September 2014 by Arifur Rahman


The children in the city are forced to join the workforce for their survival; they can not go to school. These drop-outs from primary school started working in the bakery shop to support their families. Don't we need to do something for this age group which is way to young to join the labour market in Dhaka?
14 September 2014 by Sumana Tanchangya

3: Big forces

There is no denying: big forces are at work in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Nature - the climate which causes the flooding of the land. The enormous pollution of the factories which poison the water and the air, and clog the drainage system. Then there are the invisible 'muscle-men' which dominate life in the slums. The political atmosphere is not very peaceful either. Good contacts there make for the difference between heaven and hell. Young people yearn for Law and Order, something they resist in other cultures. And then we haven't mentioned child labour yet. Is this the reason that there are so many NGO's? A big force on its own.


An electrical pole placed in the middle of the channel. The channel is surrounded by toxic waste from tanneries, Mohammadpur Beribadh
16 September 2014 by Tapash Paul


People keep encroaching upon the river to build new slums for the migrants from other parts of the country. Since there is not enough space, people keep dumping waste in the river until it gradually gets hard enough to build a house upon.
14 September 2014 by Habibul Haque