Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Farida Alam , Bangladeshi documentary photographer worked for several years on Bede Community of Bangladesh and documented their lifestyle.
I have worked on "Bede" (Nomadic) community of Bangladesh for almost 5 years. History says that they used to travel from one place to another by boat and they used to earn their livelihood based on that. Nowadays, due to change of socio-economic aspect and the decreasing river in our country, they started settling down in makeshift temporary shelters they call home. While exploring their culture, I learned about many of their traditions which are different and unusual than ours. Also, culturally they are different from any other ethnic group. Their way of handling pregnancy matters, newborn and overall reluctance to seek contemporary medical support sometimes left me speechless. They strongly believe in spiritual healers and their magical power. These extraordinary traditions of this community created immense interest in me to work on them. I enjoyed every single encounter with them and they never cease to surprise me.
A typical Bede girl is the recipient of unfathomable denouncement and rejection from society. But, she has a shield against these harrowing blows; her undisputed acceptance of her own identity that helps her break free.
The picture signifies indissoluble trust and attachment between children of the Bede community. Their world does not circulate around expensive toys or sophisticated electronic gadgets, yet, they are content with whatever they have. Heaven itself smiles at the sheer expression of fulfillment that these children have purified this photo with.
Women in the Bede community have a resilient soft corner for make-up and jewelry. From a tender age, girls in these communities are made to incline towards this particular aspect. The picture depicts one such scenario as a little girl’s nose is being pierced by her mother.
In this nomadic community, weddings are one of the most delightful of events and they leave nothing behind when it comes to adoring these special episodes of life. Five or six marriage ceremonies usually take place at the same time and people of all ages relish these merry moments with all their heart.
In this nomadic community, weddings are one of the most delightful events and they leave nothing behind when it comes to adoring these special episodes of life. Five or six marriage ceremonies usually take place at the same time and people of all ages relish these merry moments with all their heart.
Here, child marriages are a common phenomenon, in fact, the norm. Here, both the bride and groom are in their teens.
Unlike conventional society, Bede community is not male-dominated. Household chores are not labelled as “womanly” work; their men take care of their pregnant women. Dulary’s husband is cooking food for the family while she is taking a breath.
Just before delivery, as part of the procedure, the traditional midwife, who bears the responsibility of conducting childbirth in the Bede community, massages oil on the would-be mother’s belly in order to give her some comfort.
Covered and soaked in blood, umbilical cord connected to its mother, the boy took his first breathing in this shabby matt to be labelled as a Bede. The scream of this infant is perhaps the actual screams of every improvised Bede. Amidst the chaos of life, Dulary gave birth to her fifth child; a boy.
Desperate screams of the new born overwhelm the atmosphere and the enthralled crowd, which includes the mother herself, appears to bear no sign of worry. Their eyes seem to be comfortable with delivering an unblinking stare filled with intrigue and faith, as the Ozha (Spiritual Healer) casually grabs hold of the innocent child and places it inside the circle that she had drawn a little while ago. A bowl has also been kept on the side for it to serve its purpose in the coming minutes.
Its a tradition in the Bede community to remove hair from a newborn’s head after three days of its birth. Normally the grand parents help the mother with this ritual.
The process of circumcision can be painful for any child. Here, a boy’s face is covered with a leaf so he is unable to witness his own circumcision.
Zero regard for hygiene and adopting superstitious methods to bless the child are two essential reasons behind the high mortality rate of children in the Bede community.
Being a firm believer in the supernatural, Bede people have strong faith in the power of a chopper and bone to ward off the aura of evil from a newborn child.
She loves to entertain people by enchanting her little friend and making it dance. The cold blooded reptile is like a sibling to this girl and they are inseparable.
A snake-charmer is feeding his trusted companion with it’s favourite meal, fish.
Among many of their graceful practices that bring gushes of positivity into their lives, this particular game is one of them. This simple yet, refreshing traditional game has been a fascinating source of entertainment for Bede women for years.
Superstition is a fundamental part of Bede people as they turn to these mystical arts to solve their problems and cure their sick companions. These tools are proof of that undaunted mindset.
Bede people believe, their healers can relieve pain or irritation in particular areas of a person’s body by bringing out and disposing off the “evil” blood from that specific part of the body.
A peek into the houses of Bede people, who never hesitate to call them home. A depiction of simplicity, family bonding and well organization despite the hardship and rejection they have to face every single day.
The majority of people in Bede community are Muslim and are firm believers of the religion, Islam.
Here, the activities that are considered taboo by other societies are viewed as nothing that can grab so much of attention or resentment, and these people simply go on living according to their own will. In this picture, an elderly woman smokes boldly without fear of rejection or an impending overflow of condemnation.
Weddings are celebrated in the most festive manner. Usually, a part of the celebration is, all newly wedded couples gather on a boat and go for a ride together on their wedding day.
This is merely a pleasant portrayal of joy instilled by the youngest members of the Bede community. They are always seen to be well-dressed and glued together. Their source of contentment lies in being truly present in moments and valuing togetherness over everything else. Perhaps, happiness lies in every corner, we only need to open our eyes and embrace it.
About Farida Alam
My inspiration for photography comes from the people and my surroundings. I love to experience other cultures, meet different people from diverse communities.
I believe in immersion photography and spend months listening, observing and talking with my subjects over the course of a project. Photography has become a part of my identity - a force that makes me think, feel and understand human being and the human condition.
I have completed basic and foundation courses from “Pathshala South Asian Media Institute “. Later on, I also participated in a documentary photography course of Counter Photo, Bangladesh. Currently, I have completed my Diploma in photography from Alliance Francaise de Dhaka. I am a lifetime member of “Bangladesh Photographic Society (BPS)”.
My portfolio has been featured by Photographic Mercadillo. Also my works on Bede Community has been featured by SDN and Edge of Humanity. The story was also featured by 121clicks.com.
All Photos are Copy Righted by (C) Photographer