A little while ago, I took issue with the liberation war museum people in Dhaka about the display of heaped piles of skulls and bones. Actually I took issue with a whole host of things. Some small things got changed…..but on the bones issue there was silence. I think only two or three museums in the world do that kind of thing. One is in Cambodia. I understand it goes against some principles laid down by UNESCO. Anyway, here is a novel take on a related issue by an artist in England.
As a follow up to my original Rickshaw babe post here is another hot rickshaw totty below. Sorry she is slightly blurred. My hands were shaking in excitement and hence the imperfect photo. I am presently searching forÂ paintings of Britney Spears onÂ Dhaka rickshaws. Apparently they exist! Who said globalisation was bad?
Shamim Reza is a very talented bloke, and this is my latest acquisition. He has exhibited at the Bengal gallery and has a bit of a quirky style. This painting is not typical of his work. In fact, to tell the truth, I prefer his experimental stuff to his farbric work. Having said that I have seen some of his larger fabric creations and they are simply stupendous .He has typical ’shilpi’ like traits - he invited me last month to view his works in pitch darkness at his home. I kid you not.
SB tackles the subject of gun culture and violence in Dhallywood! Naeem Mohaiemen is co-curating the exhibition which features a most interesting amalgam of artists using a wide variety of media from flash animation to video to installation art. The theme is broadly about conflict and war….read it for yourself in this all too gorgeous web site - CLICK THE PICTURE below. I wish i had time to zip over there.
My son was delirious: his eyes were burning
like red krishnachura. i took his small hands
and held them gently; when I touched his forehead
it was burning with fever. He was panting softly
and his head ached furiously. His small dry lips
were moving gently like a swallow’s breast. Outside
the storm raged, beating with fury against the windows.
I shivered and wondered if I should call the doctor again.
Red krishnachuras looked into my eyes. Are you suffering
my child? I whispered: try to sleep. I touched his brow.
There was no sound. Only a cat yawned in a distant corner
of the room. Sleepless, I wondered if dawn would ever
return, I wondered if I could share his suffering.
And then I realised that when it comes to pain
we are all lonely.
krishnachura: red flowers
Pain by Shamsur Rahman
An exhibition of photographs of Shamsur Rahman by M A Taher is taking place at the Bengal Shilpalaya until Jan 22nd. It will be my first port of call.
I am in the middle of writing a small book about Dhallywood, believe it or not. It began as quite a fun project even though it dealt with the serious issue of censorship. In the course of researching it, and as I talked to more and more people, I am finding that Bengali intellectuals remain located in a statist mode, and only a few are able to think seriously beyond the state. Bizarre and sad - and I will explain why elsewhere. You will hopefully read it ( and buy it!) at some point next year.
As part of this I went to interview a couple of banner artists in old Dhaka. They are a dying breed, and I discuss their woes in a small section in the book. There is of course nothing like wondering about in old Dhaka. It is unfailingly interesting, and never shows the meanness and arrogance that I see in Gulshan.
I will be in dhaka for a few days. And so I leave you with this melancholic picture - one of a series done by Anwar Hossain. I first saw the series in his flat in Paris. It was getting dark outside and beethoven was playing softly from the cd player. The series was taken in rapid succession around his room. He has a contact sheet of it, and to see it in his flat is incredibly emotional as it depicts both change and stasis.
It was Aminul Islam, an extremely well regarded painter in bangladesh who said : “Great art is something more than just formal beauty. It should carry a message, reflect the spirit of the age, and, at its best, prognosticate and prophesy.”
Well I think S M Samsu has managed to do that here with this particular rickshaw painting. The text reads “Visa, Free, Bangladesh to America.”
Samsu is one of Dhaka’s most prominent rickshaw painters. With this one, he has left his usual theme of bengal tiger tea parties or bengal tigers and monkeys as traffic controllers, and has correctly captured a popular aspiration. Sadly political and social commentary in art is a rare thing these days in bangladesh. And one finds it only in niche forms like this. The Kamrul Hasans, the Abeddins, the Quayyum Chowdhurys and others who had a socio-political vision in their art, at least at some point in their lives, seem not to have too many successors.
Shafi Ahmed of Jahangirnagar University has written an interesting review of the state of theatre in Bangladesh over the last three years or so in the 2006 edition of The World of Theatre. He discusses, amongst other things, theatre as a tool of protest and theatre as an expression of resistance. He also touches on the great diversity of plays being performed - many of which are of overseas origin. Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, Miller and Brecht are all there…
This is how he ends his short review - with a tilt at the fundamentalists:
All said and done, Bangladesh theatre still suffers from (the lack of) any standard patronage either by the government and local councils or from private foundations and the corporate sector. A city which has a population of 10 million has only three public auditoriums worthy to be mentioned. Theatre in bangladesh is far from becoming ‘professional’ in the practical sense of the term. Young talented artists of all fields, namely acting, set design, music, light and dance often feel allured to join the electronic media, which is financially and publicity-wise far more rewarding. But in spite of all the odds, theare marches ahead with a spirit which cannot be subdued by the problems of funds, and space or by the chorus of the fundamentalists.
Well done to Syra Miah, a Bangladeshi-Britsh photographer, for exposing censorship aimed at perpetuating myths about ‘muslim societies’: Photographer protests at exhibition ‘censorship’
As a follow up to my Rickshaw babes post here is a second installment. I have had many requests for these pics and I shall be posting up more in the future. This babe here features on a rickshaw seat. I took a double take at her sensuously raised arm and made the rickshaw chap wait until i had got my camera out and lecherously snapped her.
And click on this picture below to enlarge it. You HAVE to enlarge it to see what I mean. This is fantastic art in my opinion. Move over Marvel comics, I tell ya.
Takashimaya Department store display earlier today.
As Singapore approaches its 41st birthday next week I was extremely pleased to see a fantastic new film about Singapore on the flight over from Dhaka yesterday. One of the things I like about SAA is that it features films other than just blocbusters. Its in-flight entertainment has everything from indie and art movies to the latest Tom Cruise nonsense.
Singapore Gaga is a beautiful film, and dare i use that cliche, multi-layered. It really is. Any one who has been to Singapore and spent any time in it or thought about this enigmatic place will find something of interest in this 52 minute film. And if you have not, Tan Pin Pin’s film will nevertheless send you into a contemplative mood. A film of great artistic merit and an antidote to the kinds of commercial/partriotic government nation building exercises underway to celebrate Singapore’s 41 years. Read more about it here.
It has been a tumultuous week in Bangladesh in its main industry - the garment industry. Right on cue, today, friday and rest day for some, is the 107th anniversary of a tumultuous poet. Yes its the birthday of that enigmatic man, Nazrul Islam, who in his very brief years of productivity wrote such lines as these:
“…I am weary of strife,
but I would have no rest
until the skies have ceased to ring
with the groans of the tyrant’s victims
and tyranny itself lies dead, vanquished. …”
“Break this iron-gate of the prison
Pull it down into pieces
The blood-bathed pulpit of stone
Raised for worship of the goddess of the fetters.”
For me, in bangla or english, these lines written decades ago and written against what must have seemed like an insurmountable force - British colonialism - retain their resonance and relevance. Strange indeed then to find that a two day celebration of the poet was inaugurated yesterday by PM Khaleda Zia. Beggars belief, does it not, that an institution can be so blind? Why did the Nazrul institute invite such a partisan figure to lead the celebration and allow this personality and her government to appropriate Nazrul - the people’s poet? Nazrul must be turning in his grave. And I am shaking my head in total bewilderment.
But I shouldn’t really. Our failure to internalise this poet and remember him appropriately in our lives is long standing. See for example Rumi’s interesting anecdote and some questions at Drishtipat.
I snapped her somewhere near Sadarghat. And each weekend I will post a new one. As always for balance, I shall be posting up rickshaw hunks too. Unfortunately they are the goonda (gangster) type but - hey - people like a bit of rough now and then…who am i to dictate tests?
On a “serious” note, do these rickshaw babes and goonda hunks pose a traffic hazard? Check this policeman checking out the rickshaw babe when surely his attention should be elsewhere ? And before anyone accuses me of being anti this smokeless form of transport, I am not…..