Naeem Mohaiemen (b. 1969, United Kingdom) is a writer and artist who lives and works in London and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Naeem Mohaiemen researches states of belonging at the edge of postcolonial markers through essays, films, and mixed-media installations. His project The Young Man Was (2006–ongoing) considers the revolutionary left as a form of tragic utopia. Project themes have been described as ‘revolutionary past meaningful in the sudden eruption of a revolutionary present’ (Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, Bidoun), ‘a reflection on the conditions of masculinity that shape these cultures of radicalism and, possibly, doom them to failure’ (Murtaza Vali, Modern Painters), and ‘ever on the verge of collapsing into abstraction, their materiality performs the indeterminacy of the event they record’ (Sarinah Masukor, West Space).
Chapters in Young Man Was include the films United Red Army (2012; about the 1977 hijacking of Japan Airlines to Dhaka), Afsan’s Long Day (2014; based on the diary of historian Afsan Chowdhury), and Last Man in Dhaka Central (2016; about Peter Custers, a Dutch journalist jailed in Bangladesh after the violent events of 1975).
Abu Ammar Is Coming (2016) is part of a commission by Independent Cinema Office / LUX that brings artist films into mainstream British theatres. Abu Ammar was the nom de guerre of Yasser Arafat. His Fatah group, a dominant faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), fascinated Bangladeshi socialists, despite the more Marxist tendencies of the George Habash group.
A photograph circulates, showing five men staring out of a window. Actually, only four look out; the last man breaks protocol and looks at the camera. The light has a soft glow. The stage is a bombed building. All five men wear military fatigues; the colour must have been olive green.
Snapped by Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins in 1982, the image is a teasing enigma. Arabic newspapers claim it as evidence of Bangladeshi fighters in the PLO (Fatah faction). Go a little deeper into the memory hole and sediments will darken the third world international.
Still, the light was beautiful.