This is Rowshan Ara Chowdhury. She is the grandmother of Alia Kamal, one of the artists of the Dhaka art project. When we first meet, Alia tells me how guilty she feels of having a grandmother in the house, with whom she barely speaks or has contact with. She says her grandmother has been demented for 6 years already, and is very inward and when she makes contact, its mostly abusive language. She did not even imagine her grandmother to know these words, and now she is using them daily.
When we go to their home, we meet a powerful looking old lady. She does not want to shake our hands, but she waves hello, meanwhile saying “dogs, dogs” in Bangla. Sitting with us at the table, she is looking at us. When Martijn waves at her she starts making faces, and he makes funny faces back.
Alia tells us that her grandmother was very much loved and in love with her husband, who died almost 40 years ago. He left her their big house in the village, called “Rowshan house”. After he died, her children came together and decided to sell the place. Rowshan was very upset by leaving her own house, and is still asking about the things that she had there. Now she lives with her daughter in Dhaka, with her daughter, granddaughter and servants as company.
Photography by Martijn Crowe