UTS Library

Murder not Tragedy: Rana Plaza (A Photographic Exhibition)

Murder not Tragedy: Rana Plaza (A Photographic Exhibition)

Photos from the Drik Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh

13 July - 28 August
Level 4 Breakout Space, City Campus Library 

Exhibition Opening: Murder not Tragedy
1 - 2pm, Wednesday 22 July

Conference: Social Agency in a Globalising World
 9:30 - 8pm, Wednesday 22 July (program here)

Seminar: Regulating Global Supply Chains?: the Limits and Possibilities of Codes of Conduct for Transnational Corporations
9 - 5pm, Friday 28 August 


On April 23 2013, workers evacuated a large garment factory known as Rana Plaza, in Dhaka, when they noticed large cracks in the structure. The next day workers were instructed to return to work, and the building collapsed leaving at least 1,100 people dead. 2,500 were rescued, many with very serious injuries. In June 2015, after two years of sustained pressure on the Government, 41 people have been charged with murder, including factory owners and government officials.

In 2013 Drik invited photographers, activists and other artists to submit work and register their protest. Their observations, recorded and imagined, form the basis of this exhibition, which is brought to Australia by the Australia Bangladesh Solidarity Network.


The Rana Plaza collapse sparked outrage in Bangladesh and around the world.  Local human rights activists and trade unionists campaigned to jail the culprits, to compensate the victims and their families, and to prevent this happening again. Rights for workers to join trade unions and to refuse to work in unsafe factories has been a key demand.

More than 4 million people, most of them women, work in the ‘ready-made’ garment industry in Bangladesh. The industry is the second largest in the world and clothes from Bangladesh are sold around the world.  Campaigns have focused on the Bangladesh factory owners but also on the High-Street retailers, to force them to take responsibility for working conditions in Bangladesh.

Over 150 global retailers have now signed an ‘Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’ promoted by global trade unions and consumer campaigns such as the Clean Clothes Campaign. The Accord covers half the workforce, mandates factory inspections and seeks to protect employees who refuse unsafe work. 

As a voluntary code of conduct for an entire industry, the Accord is probably unique. But it poses many questions. Even now, with a spotlight on the industry, many factories remain unsafe. Ultimately, as demonstrated by Rana Plaza, the capacity for workers on the ground to act for their own safety is critical.

The Exhibition reflects the wider global push for social justice and workplace rights in places like Bangladesh. It is designed to raise awareness, but also to provoke debate about responsibility and action. Reflecting this, there are two events organised to coincide with the exhibition, the first focused on general questions of globalisation and social agency, the second focused on the Accord and other responses.

Murder not Tragedy: Rana Plaza event photo 1 Murder not Tragedy: Rana Plaza event photo 2 Murder not Tragedy: Rana Plaza event photo 3 Murder not Tragedy: Rana Plaza event photo 4 Murder not Tragedy: Rana Plaza event photo 5 - Heather Goodall Murder not Tragedy: Rana Plaza event photo 6