Hayden Hartnett Project Space > Toli Begum, Between Two Worlds

I moved to the United States at the age of 13, when the decision to come to America was made for me. I was excited to come to America. But once I was here, I always felt out of place. Homesickness stayed with me as I tried to make a home in NYC.

The village in Bangladesh where I used to live was close to mountains, waterfalls, and paddy fields. NYC is a concrete jungle with a melting pot for many cultures and religions. The two worlds felt completely opposite, and being in one makes me long for the other. Wherever I am, elements from the two worlds coexist to remind me of what home is; Bangladesh and NYC are my humble abodes.

The video piece “Ludo” is an animation that overlays the Bangladeshi game of Ludo being played on top of filmed moments from my daily life in NYC. The voiceover narrates my memories of playing Ludo with my family back home. The animation of the game acts as a bridge to my two worlds through images and storytelling.

I started photography in 2021, capturing moments in NYC. Recently, I had the opportunity to go back home, where I photographed the simplicity of village life. Photography is a language that allows me to talk about the things I can’t talk about with words. Therefore, my photography in NYC and in Bangladesh speaks about life here and there.

The Ludo board I have designed is intended to create opportunities for others to interact with my world. The henna designs in the four large squares of the gameboard create a conversation with my identity as a henna artist. Women in Bangladesh use henna, also known as Islamic art, as an ornament to beautify themselves in every festivity. I’ve always incorporated henna art in most of my graphic design work. The Ludo board comes with printed rules to guide the players as they explore my art.

The zine “You Are Now At This Time In This Place” explores my practice of engaging in prayers with my prayer mat, as a way to transform the environment. Prayer allows me to accept reality and find hope in what is to come.