Sunara Begum

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Sunara Begum
Native name সুনারা বেগম
Born (1984-09-22) 22 September 1984 (age 30)
London, England
Residence London, England
Nationality British
Ethnicity Bengali
Education BA Fine Art, MFA Fine Art
Alma mater Camberwell College of Arts
Central St Martins College of Art and Design
Occupation Visual artist, filmmaker, photographer, writer, actress
Years active 2002–present
Style Visual-Anthro-Mythologist
Religion Islam

Sunara Begum (Bengali: সুনারা বেগম; born 22 September 1984) is an English visual artist, filmmaker, photographer and writer of Bangladeshi descent. She uses installation, film, photography and text.

Early life[edit]

Begum was born in London, England. She was encouraged to pursue the visual arts by her mother who from an early age would recite stories of growing up in the villages of Bangladesh.[1] Begum is of Bangladeshi descent[2] and was brought up in the traditions of her native Bangladesh[1] in a Sufi-Muslim household.

She began her studies at Camberwell College of Arts.[3] In 2008, she graduated from Central St Martins College of Art and Design where she completed BA in Fine Art and Masters in Fine Art.[2] Whilst at Central St Martins College, she spent much of her time recording various visual projects on both abstract and narrative based subject matter, in order to extract, explore and express her artistic vision, primarily through photography and film.[1] During her studies she also did apprenticeships with the Henry Moore Foundation and Halaqah Media.[3]



Begum had her first exhibition at the National Annexe Gallery (2004) as part of a group show in Cape Town, South Africa while still at St Martins. Since then, her solo exhibitions include; The Bargehouse (UK, 2013), St Martin in-the Fields, (UK, 2012), Drik Gallery (Bangladesh, 2011), 198 Gallery (UK, 2010), Departure (UK 2009), Shoreditch Gallery (UK, 2008), with group shows including; October Gallery (UK, 2012), Laphto Art Gallery (Ethiopia, 2010), London Art Fair (UK, 2010), Garden Gallery (Pakistan, 2009), LUDA Gallery (Russia, 2009) and Nolias Gallery (UK, 2008).[3]

She has collaborated with a wide range of practitioners from the visual arts, music and dance including multi-media artist Trevor Mathison, spoken word artist HKB FiNN, classical composer Tunde Jegede and dancer/choreographer Bode Lawal.[2]

As a visual artist she has exhibited extensively in galleries across UK and internationally in Europe, Asia and Africa.[3] From October to November 2010, she exhibited Ara: A New Face of the Old World at the 198 Gallery in London.[2]

As a photographer her work has been published in France, UK, China, India and Bangladesh, in magazines and newspapers including Le Monde, and L'Parisian. In September 2010, her first book The Legend of Ara was published, the book is a photographic poetic narrative of a mythical character. Her approach to photography contextualises people, places and environments and as an artist she considers herself a Visual-Anthro-Mythologist.[3]


Begum has also been involved in theatre productions, film and television.[2] She has worked as a producer and cinematographer on several films including, The Idea and the award-winning feature film 500 Years Later.[3] She directed her own debut short film Ara's Sojourn to critical acclaim. This featured her dancer and poet sister Shahanara Begum (text/imagery & movement).[4] This has been followed by several short films, Ara's World (2008), Menantol (2009), Ara Trilogy (2010), The Water's Will (2011) and a new documentary series Truth & Art (2013) featuring three international artists from three continents.[3]

Begum has continued to develop her own visual narrative-led language on many large-scale projects for productions including, Ancient Futures, which has toured internationally, African Messiah at the Royal Opera House, London, Visions of a Traveller at Lyon Opera House and The Planetarium for La Musée des Confluence in Lyon.[3]

In 2006, Begum founded Chand Aftara, an audio-visual production company which was initially set up to document untold stories through films and documentaries. It is now an interdisciplinary arts organisation that works on international exhibitions, screenings, theatre productions and publishing. It works to develop and harness cultural initiatives centred on the Indian subcontinent and Africa, and it is based in London.


Begum has also been involved in stage productions for Talawa Theatre Company both as an actress and in stage management.[1] In 2002, she made her debut performance as an actress on Wide Asleep which was a collection of personal narratives woven together using movement, spoken word, photography and dance, it was performed at Arcola Theatre in London. In 2003, she worked as photographer and stage manager on an experimental piece entitled Pace which was performed by an ensemble at London's Soho Theatre and Tabernacle Arts Centre. In 2004, worked on an interdisciplinary piece called Reach which was performed at Drill Hall Theatre.

In 2008, Begum worked as producer on a new interpretation of Federico García Lorca's Blood Wedding which was performed at Departure Arts Centre. In 2013, she worked on live multimedia visuals, costume and stage design for the theatre production The Griot's Tale which was performed at Yinka Shonibare's studio followed by a two week run at the Africa Centre, London in 2013 and was part of the first Africa Centre Summer Festival Covent Garden Piazza in London. The Griot's Tale was an inter-disciplinary collaboration featuring actor and storyteller Patrice Naiambana and was written and directed by composer and musician Tunde Jegede.

Community work[edit]

In 2011, Begum founded the Chand Aftara Village Teaching Project, where she combines her art forms to share her growing expertise with young people around the world. She offers multi-sensory workshops across continents in UK, Bangladesh, India, Gambia and Morocco with the primary aim of exploring a variety of stimuli and approaches to creating movement, written text, music and visuals individually and in groups. Begum works with a team of visual, sound and movement artists to deliver cross disciplinary workshops that can cater for the needs of a broad range of people, places and environments and to engage global communities.


Begum uses installation, film, photography and text, and has created her own distinct visual language and aesthetic.[3] Her work combines cinematography and storytelling.[2] Her main interest is the visual arts.[1]

Her work is influenced by East and West, and predominantly explores the relationship between people and their environment with themes of migration, exile, memory, identity, gender and femininity as seen in myth, divinity, both historical and contemporary. She draws her influences from the natural world, figurative painting, religious iconography, mystical philosophies and the cultures in which she was raised. The stories together with her own personal experiences are the cultural axis of her work.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Begum lives and works in London.[1]



Year Title Credit Notes
2002 Justice for the Youth Research, camera operator
2005 500 Years Later Research, administration
2006 The Idea Producer, production manager
2007 Our Story Our Voice Presenter, camera operator
Ara's Sojourn Director, producer, editor
2008 Ara's World Director, writer
2009 Menantol Editor
2010 Ara Trilogy Director
The World of Tunde Jegede
2011 The Water's Will
2012 Visions of a Traveler
2013 Truth & Art Director, producer
The Pilgrim Within Director


Year Title Role Theatre
2002 Wide Asleep Talawa Theatre / Arcola Theatre
2003 Pace Soho Theatre / Tabernacle Arts Centre
2004 Reach Drill Hall Theatre
2008 Blood Wedding Departure Arts Centre
2013 Griot's Tale Africa Centre


Year Title Publisher ISBN
2010 The Legend of Ara Chand Aftara Publishing 978-0956694607

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Sunara Begum". OpenVisor. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "ARA: A New Face of the Old World – Sunara Begum". 198 gallery. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Sunara Begum". Oitij-jo. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "Sunara Begum". Xiom Films. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 

External links[edit]