Interview with Kazi Arefin
October 2016

A series of interviews with SPACE Art + Technology artists in residence

What were you doing in the year leading up to the residency?
Last year was exciting, busy and a lot of variations; with people, projects, exhibitions at different places. I was continuing to develop; at the same time finishing some projects at DOMUS, one of which was designing and developing a sustainable resort “Sairu” in the remote and beautiful Banderban hill district in Bangladesh. Developing such kind of sensitive project was a challenge because of its location, climate, lack of building materials and other resources; but at the same time very rewarding for its people as this district has the highest number of tribal ethnic communities; it’s culture, natural beauty and remoteness.

At Paraa we were continuing with ongoing researches and projects through experimenting with different participatory methods, have organized a series of design competitions to develop “garden play area” and “safe spaces” for the vulnerable street children of Dhaka, these activities are the continuation of our bigger, long term research “Cycle of Care”. We have designed “Amrao Manush” pavement dweller’s multipurpose center; a training center + a community health center for another development organization Sajida Foundation, where we introduced urban agriculture and future adaptation components. We continued developing Community Craft Center with nine type of different crafts and artisans in the Tanngail Districts; training youth leaders of Bihari communities to document 120 Refugee camps using innovation in recent technology for mapping, surveying and other documentation. The beginning of last year we worked with communities from 23 districts of Bangladesh to document and evaluate the project UPPR, UNDP’s largest project in Bangladesh.


What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, we are focusing on strategies and action plans to develop Paraa as “school of Praxis” by 2020, by establishing a training and research school out of its ongoing design studio practice.

Also, continuing our ongoing research with vulnerable children and women communities, Bihari communities, Craft Communities. We are specially focusing on developing participatory planning, designing and networking tools which we believe will have more impact as this will use collective strength and give more power, confidence to the communities.

My research in this residency with V&A is to understand the creative desire, engagement and participation of wider communities in East London with creative process, productions and organizations. I am currently organizing people and collectives for my upcoming interviews and workshops and also developing some participatory ideas and tools for these activities, documentation and evaluation.


How have you found the residency so far?
As I am the residence artists of both SPACE and V&A, I am privileged in many way for example I have greater access to museums, libraries, etc and because of the nature of the work I get to travel a lot. I am very inspired as I am working with and alongside the other artists, creatives and community organizers in our studio and also in the communities.
It takes a lot of time and energy to organize people for any collective exercise but the work has started to get more pace now as I am more connected with many people and organizations. I am glad that again this is a participatory and collaborative research, that means working with diverse people and collectives. I will be conducting interviews, a couple of workshops with Bromley By Bow Center, SPACE and V&A with other different groups.

What’s coming next?
In London, first to manage interviews and workshops with different people and organizations and then to disseminate the outcomes from those activities in SPACE and V&A at the end of November and my intention is to have wider feedback from general people and expert so that we can move forward in a collective way to develop some strategies in the future as the research will continue.

Few more exhibitions and publications are coming up later this year both in Bangladesh and London. One is in this November at Brady Center where our interests are to disseminate the process of a couple of projects Paraa is working in Bangladesh and impact of process driven creative practice along with few portraits of the children we work with, by our colleague Ruhul Abdin.

In Bangladesh, we are initiating new planning and design researches, shaping the idea of art + design + architectural projects where the key focuses are climate change, urban agriculture, social justice and inclusivity.


Anything you'd like to add?
London keeps surprising me with its art, architecture, creative dynamics and diversity! And the people are beautiful, I am very thankful to the them. Others facts make me thoughtful also, for example its new developments approaches which in my personal view could be more socially inclusive process and could symbolize “people” more.