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1134- Lives not Numbers
Curated by Munem Wasif and Mahbubur Rahman
Still haunted by the memories. When I close my eyes I see the procession of corpses, following me
behind, taunting my sense of responsibility. 24th April, 2013, Rana Plaza collapses, 1135 lost to senseless
greed, lives lost due to collective negligence. A dark day in the history of garments workers lives, a
nightmare which will terrorize us for the rest of our lives. Amongst the rubble, hidden beneath the
stones, beams and bricks, thousands of workers lie enveloped in darkness, their dreams crushed under
the weight of our negligence.
Seminars, grieving, crying, TV programs, bureaucrats, NGOs’ , civil servants , photographers, film makers
Buyers, diplomats partake in the media circus, all engaged in the commotion over the dead bodies of
the garments workers. Their collective footsteps thundering in the ears of the corpses, failing to register
a faint murmur amongst the living. Garments workers in Bangladesh number over 4 million. Women
make up more than 80 % of this large number, which provides some of the cheapest labor on earth.
Their products grace the shelves in Europe and North America.
Frantic is BGMEA, frantic is Primark. In the frenzied rush of the living what benefit is it to the dead? Their
spirits taunt and tease, asking innocuously, was my life worth the petty vanity, precious savings of few
cents and shillings? Struggling to make ends meet, the workers are compelled to work overtime and
night shifts, barely generating enough income to pay for their daily necessities.
Bangladesh produces readymade garments cheap for brands such as H&M, Primark, and it gives the
garments workers a feeling of participation in the global scenario. Whenever the workers try to unite
and organize for their basic rights, their efforts are met with rubber bullets and merciless oppression
from the police. Striving for a nominal bonus and fearing loss of wages, the incapacitated workers were
forced to enter and work in the building condemned to collapse just the day before. Their dreams lie
crushed amongst the dust and dirt of Rana Plaza. The few survivors of this tragedy wander about
humiliated, searching and waiting for compensation. Till date there are still approximately 146 missing
workers, no trace of theirs has been found, no one asks for justices for them.
Pathshala pays homage to the fallen souls, to the garments workers who were killed in the incident at
Rana Plaza. Through the captures of the needless ‘accident’, through performance art reflecting the
sorrow of the deprived, it attempts to leave a lasting mark on our collective psyche.