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Yasmin Jahan Nupur was born in the Bangladeshi coastal town of Chittagong in 1979. After completing a master’s in painting from the University of Chittagong in 2004 and working as a visual artist, she is now a full-time art practitioner, doing sketches, installations and performances. She has seen the Bangladeshi art landscape change in the past two decades, reflecting the social and political changes that have shaped the country—and the conflict is evident in her art. At the third edition of the Dhaka Art Summit in February, Nupur’s performances will seek an equilibrium between body, mind and physical space. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

What works will you be bringing to the summit?

I will do performances curated by Nikhil Chopra, Madhavi Gore, and Jana Prepeluh. There’s a sort of willingness (in my performance) to review the human body, which is about the joy of creating and not being afraid of it; to do something and not be very analytical about it. What I am planning to do is make movements that resemble dance.

Dealing with the body is about dealing with emotion. This experience is always very important to me. The idea is to make a living sculpture that investigates space by moving my body in various positions with relation to the walls and floor.

What is your favourite work from your portfolio?

It is very difficult to select one—I love every piece of my work. I like to do performances most. I remember one particular performance from the last summit that got a lot of attention. The idea struck (me) in 2011. I was in Mauritius and tried one day to perch my chair up on a tree. I couldn’t do it. The idea, though, stuck with me. I started doing research, meditation, yoga, and kept practising the chair move. Finally, at the summit, I managed to perform Sat On The Chair, in which I was sitting on a chair that was perched up high on a pillar, secured by ropes and harnesses.

This vertigo-inducing, 3-hour performance was all about time and space.

South Asia has seen a surge in extremism in the past couple of years. How does it affect the artists and their work?

Asia is characterized by political, economic and cultural diversity rather than natural coherence. Extremism has surged more in Europe than Asia. Every century has witnessed political struggles of different kinds and artists can’t ignore the conflicts of the time. Struggles have shaped the art of the time.

The art world here has definitely changed in the last 40 years—South Asian art is attracting more interest from the global audience. I think we can thank civil rights movements for making the art world a lot more comprehensive and inclusive.

As an priority is humanity; I try to incorporate human dignity, identity, religion, politics, globalization and nationalism in my art. Moreover, I like to depict human relationships from various points of view. Mainly, my approach is linked by principles that are based on historicity, myth and iconographic symbolism of the objects; objects that tell the story of moments, ideas and memories. My artwork creates a social environment in which people come together to participate in a shared activity. In my work, the audience is envisaged as a community.

Do you think your gender affects your work and how it is received?

Yes, I do. We all know that we have to do much more to respond to the cries of justice for women and children who have suffered violence. Violence against girls and women is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality and systemic gender discrimination. The right of women and children to live free of violence depends on the protection of their human rights and a strong chain of justice. I have had the opportunity to meet with representatives from around the world, with government officials, civil society groups and members of the business community. I can tell you that the momentum is gathering, awareness is rising, and I truly believe that the long-standing indifference to violence against women and children is declining.

The Dhaka Art Summit was essentially started to provide a platform for local artists. In its third edition this year, do you think contemporary artists from Bangladesh will have greater opportunity?

The organizers of the summit have placed great importance on the involvement of local artists, community and, in particular, the younger generation. The Dhaka Art Summit’s main aim is to increase the artistic engagement between Bangladesh and the rest of the world. And the summit has enabled inter-generational and inter-regional dialogues that were not previously possible due to restrictions on the movement of people and goods across South Asia.

This year, the Samdani Art Award will showcase the works of 13 young artists and feature a new section titled “Critical Writing Ensemble". For the first time, the event will incorporate architecture, experimental writing and exhibitions of historical works from the 20th century as part of a new expanded programme. It will also feature more than 50 leading thinkers from South Asia and beyond.

The Dhaka Art Summit will be held from 5-8 February. Click here for details.

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