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Nabil Rahman

I’ve been working on a documentary recently with Tiffany Rhodes who’s finding herself and trying to create work that’s inspires her more on a personal level. It has been a wonderful journey learning about the world of fashion through her. I definitely recognize it as an art form now. From the texture of the materials, to the fitting and to the philosophies behind why people dress how they do.

These are some iPhone photos I’ve taken during the many hours I spend stalking her (and secretly stealing knowledge and inspiration)

 

I met Marc Charleston when shooting the short film “The Renewal” with my good friend Sarah Kazadi.  J Alex Cowell, the actor in the film, had brought Marc along to the shoot. We were all kindred spirits and got along real well. We shared similar ideas about art – and staying true to it. Not selling out. Not giving up on our vision.

Marc left his family in Florida and booked a one way ticket to New York to make it here as a graphic artist. He stayed in a friend’s couch for a month and then ended up in a basement in Brooklyn. The struggle I saw him going through really inspired me. And so one weekend when he was house sitting for a family friend in Connecticut, I decided to go spend some time with him and document this important phase of his life. “I Am” was the result. There was no planning involved. No script. No concrete idea. I literally drove to connecticut in the middle of the night and then we decided to shoot and make a whole short film within 2 days.

It was a such an organic process. And although some people complain about the lengthy monologue at the end – I feel like it stays true to what we were trying to accomplish.

 

Marc created the poster.

 

Here is the short film I shot with Sarah:

 

I’m so thankful to all the inspiring people I’ve been meeting along the way in my creative journey. I’m learning that nothing is impossible and that it’s all about having the ability to dream. If you can think it, you can make it happen. I think my goal in life is to nurture this ability to dream and inspire others to think as big as possible.

 

Nabil Rahman on the set of “The Renewal” with Sarah Kazadi.
Photo by J Alex Cowell

 

I had just finished graduate school and despite the weight of $35,000 of student loans on my shoulders, I used my credit card to buy a ticket to London. I wanted to get away for a while before entering the working world. My classmates were all panicking, scrambling for jobs. I wanted to keep calm, dream big, and not get boxed in by taking the first job offer that came my way.

It was a huge gamble. I was either going to starve, or make my own way to some place amazing. What happened next was incredible…

I landed in London on Christmas day. A few weeks later, I was jumping turnstiles in Paris. By late January I was in Bangladesh on a ferry in the middle of a river with some of the best photographers in the world for Chobi Mela. It was there that I had my first freelance gig writing about child labor in Dhaka tanneries for a Danish children’s magazine.

The risk paid off. I avoided the first harsh winter of postgraduate life. I was back in New York – and filled with all the hope in the world.

I traveled to Filipino restaurants around New York City for Rogue Magazine (via Anne Lagamayo) and got my first major spread in a magazine. A few weeks later, I was traveling to Tennessee and Arkansas with my hero Bob Sacha while working with my other hero Jesse Hardman on the live radio show “Where I’m From.” I was introduced to Fritz Hoffmann shortly after via Bob Sacha, with whom I got the chance to travel coast to coast and discover America for a National Geographic Magazine project. I learned about the beauty of early morning light, the importance of being patient and thinking big. With Sarah Kazadi, we took a vision and made it into a movie for everyone else to see with “The Renewal.” Tina Pamintuan got me on board with the AAWW fellows Rishi Nath, Anelise Chen and Sukjong Hong to create a series of videos for the Page Turner Festival, which resulted in “Lyrics To Go,” a collaboration with Rishi Nath. I got to meet The Twilite Tone through “Lyrics To Go” and then the I Love Vinyl crew through Tone. Brooklyn Shanti wrapped up the year by teaching me how to manage finances as a freelancer.

One thing has been leading to another and a snowball affect has been creating what is slowly becoming my career.

In the upcoming year, I plan to continue to dreaming big and making them a reality. Currently, I’m in the process of creating a documentary for a fashion label and also working on a music video. I’m working with an amazing group of people to organize a photo exhibition about Bangladeshi photographers on March 26th. I will send a separate email inviting you all to attend as the date nears.

I wanted to wrap up my year by thanking you for believing in me. Your support has been invaluable and any success of mine is yours as well. Wishing you all the best for the New Year.

 

“A rose plant goes on saying ceaselessly —
Courtyard or graveyard wherever you plant me,
I will produce the queen of flowers.”

-Kabi Dilwar

My grandpa Kabi Dilwar passed away today. He was known as the Ganumanusher Kabi: The poet of the people. It was noon and he had been writing all morning. He had always been an early riser. While we were sleeping on the other side of the world in New York, he had been sending text messages to my mother. He sent about a dozen. Usually he would send just one or two a day and ask that someone post it on his Facebook page. After all, he had been writing in local and national newspapers in Bangladesh all his life – but he wanted to reach the world.

He was always physically unwell from a young age. His mother told him once that she was happy that he wasn’t healthy. She said that he was dangerous enough with bad health and a pen. With physical strength, he would either hurt someone or get himself killed.

When he visited us in New York in 2007, an expatriate Bangladeshi society honored him with a ceremony. He would smile like a young boy and tell me – see? This little boy from Khanmanjil, Sylhet is getting such a big reception in New York; only because of his pen.

His pen was his weapon and he took a stab at injustice every chance he got; through poetry, prose and fiction. At one point, he also wrote plays. Much of his work was lost during a flood in 2001. But my Uncle Kamran has done his best to archive as much as possible. There’s a room dedicated to housing his pamphlets, newspaper clippings, books, and photographs.

A sick man on his deathbed, he was resurrected by a nurse from Bihar, India. She walked in one day and said that she heard he was a poet. He asked her what her favorite book of poems were. She replied, “Gitanjali” by Rabindranath Tagore. And then recited a verse in Bangla. They got married in a room in the hospital housing with two of his friends as witnesses. Both of their families were against the idea – because of their different cultural backgrounds. But young Dilu was in love and there was no stopping him.

He left his home and the surrounding property to the Kabi Dilwar Foundation, under one condition: that the house could never be sold. He wanted the cultural center to continue providing literature on behalf of the everyman. He asked to be buried inside the premises.

I noticed him getting more and more paranoid as he got older. He’d think hard and long if someone offered him some sort of financial hope with publishing a compendium. Several fund-raisers were held during his life – but he would rarely see the money and the offer to publish his work would disperse. One of these incidences happened in England when he went there for treatment in the early 90s. Local leaders in New York back in 2007 called him a cultural icon and spoke of doing everything necessary to publish a compendium while he was still alive. It never happened.

He left New York skinnier than he had arrived. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. His health had deteriorated. He wanted to go back. He needed people around him. New York didn’t offer him people with whom to converse.

He called himself a citizen of the world. He knew that he was a progressive man. I could talk to him about anything and everything. The last time we spoke in February when I was in Bangladesh, he sat me down and encouraged me to find a mate. I know you’re an artist and you have your stubborn goals just like I did – but the beauty of youth – if you don’t practice your youth now, you’ll regret it when you’re old.

He wrote a poem called “A Glance At Marilyn Monroe” and it reached an American poet named Norman Rosten. They were penpals for decades, always writing back and forth to each other. Rosten would send him books from Brooklyn. And Dilwar would gulp them up in Sylhet.

He had a message. He wanted to unite people and stop violence and misunderstandings amongst people. He wanted to educate and eradicate backward thinking lingering around in society. In a society so engrossed in religion, he wanted people to step back and study for themselves instead of turning to angry clerics. He was a wise man in the corner churning out solutions while others ignored him and continued fighting each other. But he never wavered – he stuck on his path to right the wrong he saw around him.

An hour before he passed away, he sent a text message in Bangla to my uncle Shaheen in New York.

“kabi shahin ibna dilwar o somogro.ke ratrir ful rojonigonddha vor.er surjjomukhi kumeru.sumeru majhkhane tar royeche poromsukhi. dui ful niye thako jibon.moron apnar koray rakho. Pojhotok pita.”

Rough Translation:

“To Poet Shahin Ibne Dilwar and all,
The queen of the night, the Tuberose,
and the dawn’s sunflower, are like the
north and south pole, and in between is where you find happiness.
Keep both flowers in hand,
live and die in your own terms
-Your transient Father”

 

I was invited to read at an open mic on 12/12/12 by John Paul Infante. I was  buried in work from the last stretch of my master’s program. I was to graduate the next day. It was 5 p.m. and the event was at 7 p.m. I hadn’t written anything yet. So as I sat outside the fitting room buying clothes for the next day, I typed this up on my phone. Thought I would share:

 

I hate shopping for clothes cuz it always leads to existential questioning. Who am I? How do I want to portray myself? Which box do I put myself into?

I sat down to write last night. And I wrote and wrote. I wrote about this girl I like and how her family is super rich. And how she likes me but she’s with some guy who’s some doctor lawyer type. But then I  concluded that I like being me. and how I’ll forever be a Bronx kid. And keep it real till it hurts.

Whatever that means.

But what does that say about me?

What the hell is writing anyway?

Why decorate my sentences with metaphors or litter my lines with liters of alliteration?

What the hell is liters of alliteration anyway?

I’m just forcing shit now.

I graduate tomorrow.

Masters in journalism.

19 years of schooling and I’ve ended up here on this stage. With no concrete idea of what the hell to talk about.

While out shopping for graduation clothes my dad wanted me to buy cologne. My South-Asian dad calls it perfume. He doesn’t know the difference. I don’t really see the difference either. You don’t call shampoo shamogne.

So he wanted me to pick. Some polo, curve Armani code- you know how many millions of people buy the same perfume, I mean cologne and smell the same way? Can I not even have my own smell at least?

Speaking of which, sometimes I go days without showering and then I smell myself and I like the way I smell.

I’m all about expressing myself. I’m constantly blasting my Facebook friends with updates about what I’m up to. Pictures. An entire tumblr dedicated to my self-portraits.

It’s almost like social media rape. I’m forcing myself on people. And I guess some of them like it. Likes and retweets are like some sort of a validation – that – I -exist. That I actually exist.

I didn’t like the thing about the girl I wrote last night – my mind had changed by the morning when she texted me. I’m slippery. My mind is like a slippery fish. Wet and with pointy bones.

My uncle described girls as slippery fish – some with more bones than others.

He said you gotta grab ‘em with gloves.

So I wrote about memories instead. And how memories are like butter or honey. And how you churn and churn. Or collect nectars with kisses for your honeycomb of memories. And then you get old and sit on your hammock and smile and reflect. But then I ended that poem with how people shit in their pants when they die. And then I talked about how babies shit in their pants too. It’s okay to die and shit on your pants I decided by the end.  It’s just shit.

So anyways, tonight is 12/12/12.  A day before I graduate. It’s a heck of a night to find myself. Specially when I’m standing on stage in front of all of you.

And shaking nervously while you all stare at me. And I’m presenting myself as some kid who’s confident enough to come up here and tell you who I am.

But I’m really not. I have no fuckig idea who I am. I just know that I wanna be here for all those who are out there and don’t know themselves either.

It’s alright. We’ll figure it out. And then we’ll die and shit in our pants.

I am the web/video producer for a new exciting show for and about New York’s diaspora community. Here are a few videos and bios of featured guests.

Members of the Diaspora/ April 20th

Roohi Choudhry is a writer who has lived on almost every continent.  She was born in Pakistan, grew up in Durban, South Africa, and came to New York via Texas.  Choudhry’s writing has appeared in literary journals and won both the Hopwood and Newman awards.  She currently lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist and immigration reform advocate. In 2011 he revealed his undocumented status in the New York Times, and that same year he started Define American, an organization dedicated to fostering conversation about current immigration issues. He has worked for the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Huffington Post, and is a Pulitzer prize winner. He lives in Manhattan.

Diego Obregon is a Colombian born musician from the Southwestern town of Guapí. Obregon specializes in the Marimba instrument, which he not only plays like a master, but also builds himself out of the trunk of palm trees.  Nine years ago he came to New York to share his beloved Marimba de Chonta music.  He currently lives in Queens.

Anna Halberstadt is a social worker and psychologist who has worked with immigrant populations in New York City for over 25 years.  Born in Lithuania, Halberstadt earned her Master’s in Psychology from Moscow State University before moving to New York. Halberstadt is also a poet, and her work touches on themes of immigration, displacement, and identity.  Halberstadt lives in the East Village of Manhattan

Isaac Katalay is a Congolese musician originally from Kinshasa. He’s spent more than half of his 32 years in New York, exploring music and culture.  He leads the Life Long Project band and is the founder of several related organizations that promote socially conscious artists and entrepreneurs. Katalay lives in Harlem. 

Saba Hocek was born in Turkey and currently lives on the Upper East Side.  She and her mother practice the Turkish tradition of reading futures in coffee grounds.  Hocek read her first coffee cup at a Ray’s Pizza in Tehran, Iran, when she was only 16. She’s been reading cups ever since.  Hocek lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Photographer Annie Ling is a Canadian citizen, born in Taipei, Taiwan. Ling’s work has appeared in New York Magazine, The New York Times Lensblog, FADER Magazine, and Germany’s GEO Magazine. Her work has been exhibited internationally in Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America. Ling’s project 81 Bowery documents the life and recent eviction of one of New York’s oldest Chinese tenements.  She lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

For tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6105623083#

For more information: http://www.whereimfromshow.com/