ANGON is a vodcast series that invites artists and cultural practitioners from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and respective diasporas in Birmingham to enter into dialogue on diverging narratives, common identities, and forge new connections. Contributors include authors, performers, journalists, poets, and filmmakers. Vodcasts are produced and curated by Masuma Halai Khwaja (Karachi, Pakistan), Nafis Ahmed (Dhaka, Bangladesh), Samira Syed (Dhaka, Bangladesh), and I AM KARACHI (Pakistan).
We sat down with one of the creators and moderators of Angon, Samira Syed, to talk about the project.
Angon is part of the Transforming Narratives Digital Collaborations supported by Arts Council England and the British Council. The vodcast idea came because of restrictions due to the pandemic. The main concept of the project was bringing together pairs of artists and cultural practitioners, one from Pakistan and one from Bangladesh, and facilitating a conversation around their work. Samira says, “I didn’t envision how deep the conversations would go, and because of the diversity of the speakers, the insights we learned were quite unique.”
In order to stimulate a quick connection between the two guests, the team chose them based on similar disciplines. This overlap in experience allowed them to dive into other subjects from a shared point of view.
Interestingly, Samira notes that the digital space of the project was very important. Because of the complex history between the two countries and the difficulty of being able to travel between them, the chance for these guests to have met and connect was low. The digital space helped overcome these obstacles and quell the concerns Samira had about facilitating these dialogues. She remarked, “It was inspiring to see that all the guests were eager and appreciative to take part in the conversations.”
While the idea was to connect the guests through their mediums and not through history, the conversations did explore shared pasts. Samira notes that it also depended on the age of the guests, as those who experienced 1971 through second-hand sources were more hesitant to discuss it. Overall, as a moderator, Samira mostly stepped back and let the participants share. In the end, she says it was people sharing personal stories.
That did lead to a question of editing, as the conversations sometimes lasted two to three hours. Samira says that it was a meticulous process in some ways. Due to the sensitive nature of the topic and the fact that the interviewees were mostly sharing very personal stories, she was concerned about real world consequences.
The positive impact of Post Reality
Samira hopes that having more people connected across borders will shape future generations for the better. Digital spaces are clearly one positive aspect of Post Reality.
She also notes that the digital sphere provides invaluable access to information that cannot generally be found in the education system. Historical education in the two countries presents very biased narratives, and students have limited ability to present their own differing perspectives. However, with the ability to be anonymous on the internet, people can unlearn set narratives and present their thoughts.
You can watch the first season on Angon’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJYH3TlMIhShYr_clI2pseQ