Sunara Begum

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Sunara Begum
সুনারা বেগম
Born (1984-09-22) 22 September 1984 (age 35)
London, England
Nationality British
Education BA Fine Art, MFA Fine Art
Alma mater Camberwell College of Arts
Central St Martins College of Art and Design
Occupation Visual and performance artist, filmmaker, photographer, writer, producer, director, co-founder, actress, stage design
Years active 2002–present
Style Visual-Anthro-Mythologist
Spouse(s) Tunde Jegede (m. 2012)

Sunara Begum (Bengali: সুনারা বেগম; born 22 September 1984) is an English visual and performance artist, filmmaker, photographer and writer of Bangladeshi descent. She uses installation, film, photography, live performance, sonics and text. Begum is the founder and director of Chand Aftara, a creation centre, where art is made and consumed in innovative and exhilarating ways.[according to whom?] Begum is also the co-founder of Living Legacies, a traditional music archive in Gambia and New Horizons Africa, a music and arts festival in Lagos, Nigeria.

Early life

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 with 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 MFA 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 Begum did several apprenticeships with renowned international visual artists, as well as working as archivist for the Henry Moore Foundation and as research assistant, camera operator and line producer for 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; Whitespace Gallery (2016, Nigeria), Dimbola Museum & Gallery (2016, UK), Lionel Wendt Gallery (2015, Sri Lanka), Centre for Contemporary Art (2015, Nigeria), St. Martin in the Fields (2014, UK), Khalili Lecture Theatre SOAS (2013, UK), St. Martin in the Fields (2012, UK), Drik Gallery (2011, Bangladesh), 198 Gallery (2010, UK), Departure (2009, UK), Shoreditch Gallery (2008, UK), East-Side Educational Trust (2007, UK), Brady Arts Centre (2007, UK).[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 Songlines, 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 and feature documentaries. Memories of My Mentor (2017) was written, produced and directed by Sunara Begum. In 2016 Truth & Art was screened at the Lights, Camera Africa!!! film festival in Lagos, Nigeria. In 2015 Truth & Art was selected to appear at the 5th Annual Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Lagos, in November 2015. New Horizons Africa (2016), New Horizons Africa (2015), Night Paintings (2014), The Pilgrim Within (2013), a documentary series entitled, Truth & Art (2013) featuring three international artists from three continents, Visions of a Traveller (2012), The Brodsky Quartet (2012), Nomadic Mystics (2012), African Classical Music (2012), The Water's Will (2011), One Take Wonders (2011), Ara Trilogy (2010), When Night Falls (2010), The Road to Basilique (2010), The World of Tunde Jegede (2010), Menantol (2009), Ara's World (2008), Ara's Sojourn (2007), Our Story Our Voice (2007), The Idea (2006), Justice for the Youth (2002).[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 centered 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, she 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 is an inter-disciplinary collaboration featuring actor and storyteller Patrice Naiambana and was written and directed by composer and musician Tunde Jegede. In 2014 Begum worked closely with Tunde Jegede on a new conception entitled, Emidy: He Who Dared To Dream, the life and story of an African Slave who became a composer and virtuoso violinist in C19 England. The piece was initially developed through a month long artist residency at Yinka Shonibare's studio and further developed at Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud in France in 2016. Emidy: He Who Dared To Dream, then went on to tour France and UK in 2017 at the following venues, La Cave Poésie, Tara Theatre, Lyric Theatre and Theatre Utopia.

Community work

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.

Healing sessions

Begum runs sound baths across UK, a healing therapy that uses sound to induce a meditative state. Her sound bath healing sessions are an improvised meditative concert that supports states of deep relaxation, where stress release and healing can occur. This experience can provide many of meditation's benefits, without the discipline—such as increased focus and clarity, decreased anxiety, stress relief, and a heightened capacity for empathy. It is an acoustic sound healing journey that relaxes the mind and activates the body's natural energetic healing system. It incorporates yoga movements, healing sounds, vocal toning, singing bowls, planetary gongs, drums, aromatherapy, meditation and other healing tools to transform the nervous system ultimately relieving stress and stagnant energy blocks.


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

Begum lives and works in London. She spends much of her time in West Africa working on New Horizons Africa (co-founder), an international music and arts initiative based in Lagos, Nigeria and Living Legacies (co-founder), a traditional music archive in the Gambia. Begum divides her time between producing international projects, her own artistic practice as a visual and performance artist as well as Chand Aftara (director), an artist's collective dedicated to the exhibition and production of experimental cinema. Her work has been widely exhibited in film festivals, museums, galleries and cinematheques worldwide.[1] Begum is a regular practitioner of yoga, meditation and the healing arts and often visits solitary retreats in UK, India and West Africa. She is a pescatarian and fasts twice a week, a practice that has been passed down from her mother.



Year Title Credit
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
2014 Night Paintings Director, editor
2015 New Horizons Africa Producer
2016 New Horizons Africa Producer
2017 Memories of My Mentor Director, producer, writer, editor
2019 Water Director, producer, writer, editor

Performance / Stage

Year Title Role Venue
2002 Wide Asleep Actress Talawa Theatre / Arcola Theatre
2003 Pace Photographer / Stage Manager Soho Theatre / Tabernacle Arts Centre
2004 Reach Photographer / Stage Manager Drill Hall Theatre
2008 Blood Wedding Producer Departure Arts Centre
2013 Griot's Tale Visual Artist / Producer/ Stage Design Shonibare Studio / Africa Centre
2014 - 2019 Emidy: He Who Dared To Dream Visual Artist / Producer/ Stage Design Shonibare Studio / Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud / La Cave Poésie / Tara Theatre / Lyric Theatre / Theatre Utopia / Chateau de Guimarest / Eco Museum of Berber / Théâtre de la Jeunesse / Théâtre Khemisset / L’Abbeille / Saint Laurent Les Bains / Château Porte les Ardèchois / The Cité Miroir / Chateau de Flawinne / Memories of Exile Festival, Salle de l’Alhambra / Church in La Neuveville / Festival Métis Saint Denis / Alliance Française Theatre / Institut Française / Collegiate Church of Neuchâtel
2017 Testimony Visual Artist / Producer/ Stage Design Shonibare Studio / Chidham & Hambrook Village Hall / The Forge Anvil / The Whitty Theatre / Norwich Arts / Newcastle Arts Centre / Norden Farm Centre for the Arts / Ventnor Exchange / Dimbola Museum and Galleries / Bradford Festival / Under Ground Theatre / Morrab Library / The Poly
2018 Nomad Visual Artist / Producer October Gallery / Eglise de Ceaulmont / The Poly / Morrab Library / Ventnor Exchange / The Front Room / Chidham & Hambrook Village Hall / The Auditorium, University of Oxford / Norden Farm Centre for the Arts
2018 Gekka: Under the Moon Performance Artist Hastings Museum & Art Gallery
2019 New Worlds Visual Artist & Perfromer The Forge – Basingstoke / Norwich Arts Centre – Norwich / Compton Parish Rooms – Chichester / St Stephen Walbrook – London / St. Agnes Church – Isle of Wight / Morrab Library – Cornwall / The Poly – Cornwall / Gulbenkian Theatre – Canterbury / Norden Farm – Maidenhead
2019 Moon Visual Artist & Perfromer October Gallery
2019 Who Am I Director / Writer / Performance Artist & Filmmaker V&A Museum, London (Victoria & Albert), St Stephen Walbrook Church, London

Novels, CD & DVD

Year Title Publisher / Production ISBN / Catalogue No.
2010 The Legend of Ara Chand Aftara Publishing 978-0956694607
2013 Truth & Art Chand Aftara Production CA001
2015 New Horizons Africa: New Horizons Chand Aftara Production CA002
2015 New Horizons Africa: African Messiah Chand Aftara Production CA003
2015 New Horizons Africa: Testimony Chand Aftara Production CA004
2016 New Horizons Africa: Resistance & Revelation Chand Aftara Production CA005
2016 New Horizons Africa: New Worlds Chand Aftara Production CA006
2016 New Horizons Africa: African Ballet Chand Aftara Production CA007
2017 Who Am I Chand Aftara Production CA008

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Sunara Begum". OpenVisor. Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. 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. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Sunara Begum". Xiom Films. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014.

External links

  • Official website
  • Sunara Begum on IMDb
  • Sunara Begum at AllMovie
  • Sunara Begum on ArtSlant
  • Sunara Begum on Art + Culture
  • Sunara Begum on Songkick
  • Sunara Begum on Instagram
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