Monica Jahan Bose ’90
Storytelling with Saris
In 2013, environmental law expert and artist Monica Jahan Bose ’90 traveled to Katakhali, Bangladesh, to begin a printmaking project with 12 women who recently survived a devastating cyclone. Bose—who serves on the board of Samhati, an American nonprofit organization dedicated to helping indigent women in Bangladesh—developed the idea to highlight health care and education initiatives that the organization spearheaded in the village.
“I practice ‘artivism,’” she explains, “which is the idea of using any means to get the story out there, to get marginal voices heard.”
Bose spent nine days in Katakhali, helping the women use wood-block and painting techniques to design saris for exhibition in the United States. While there, she also spoke with locals about the recent cyclones, which have grown in intensity over the years, as well as storm surges, soil salinity, and decreases in the area’s fish population. As a former attorney adviser for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Bose was familiar with these indicators of climate change, and she decided the saris could be used to draw attention to how the issue is impacting the people of Bangladesh.
While exhibiting the saris around the U.S.—and recounting how Samhati has worked to improve female literacy rates and health care in Katakhali—Bose also addresses the need to help villagers prepare for future environmental changes. She received a grant from a Washington, D.C.–area art initiative for one of her exhibits and is also presenting the women’s stories at climate conferences. This year, Bose will return to Bangladesh to meet with climate scientists there.
“These communities have to be empowered and involved,” she says. “They need to have a voice in the international arena.”