A large tent made entirely of newspapers welcomes visitors at Akar Prakar gallery with colourful drawings of picturesque landscapes. There are calm rivers, boats quietly floating on their surface, and the brimming sun smiling from far behind. Bringing in a dose of childhood nostalgia, its interiors are full of showpieces and wall hangings made from bright chart papers, newspapers and recycled bottles. It is also the idea of home created by children aged between 10 and 12 at an art workshop held at Walk-Up High School in Dhaka, many of whose parents are auto drivers and garment factory workers. Titled Equilibrium Project, this multimedia installation is 33-year-old artist Marzia Farhana’s work. Farhana spearheaded the workshop and has created a replica of the original house that was showcased at the Dhaka Art Summit last year.
On an age-old television screen nearby, famed master painter SM Sultan from Bangladesh, is heard saying, “The kid that draws his village, beautiful flowers, animals, green leaves, foliage and trees, can’t commit any crime, can’t hurt anybody. Our trend of art should be changed, otherwise how can it be said that the cultivation of artforms can shape human character?” Farhana feels that art is still not inspired by social engagements, but instead is influenced by corporate galleries and institutions. “A lot of underprivileged audience is not welcomed into the art world and I wanted to erase that distance,” she says.
Her work is part of the exhibition “Finger on the Pulse” that has brought together the works of eight Bangladeshi artists, their age span covering three generations. Curator Tanzim Wahab believes that the show is the best way of talking about the social situation of a newly formed generation in Bangladesh and covers a range of social upheavals of different generations in their homeland. “Many artists are dealing with space, violence, war and how regional problems can be part of a global problem,” he says.
Multidisciplinary artist Mahbubur Rahman, with the help of his ‘Cult Object’ series, reminds us of a devastating event in history — when the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. He submerges his sculptures that are replicas of the two atomic bombs and a gas mask in gold colour and ornates the former with precious jewels on its surface, as if hinting at how war is seen as a form of beauty and glory.
It’s a comment on people’s perception of war.
Outlining the role of women in times of war is Chittagong-based Dilara Begum Jolly’s eye-catching War after War, where she uses needles to pierce the black and white photographs of the now abandoned spaces in Bangladesh that were used as torture cells by the Pakistani army during the1971 liberation war. Jolly revisits the history of trauma and points out how many of these spaces are witness to women being sexually harassed, raped, tortured and abused. They shed light on the violence one goes through under the military regime. The constant terror that women have to go through during a war, who are expected not to go and fight and instead be at homes which can be bombed any moment, are the sentiments that the photographic work elucidates.
The iconic covers of Time magazine together form Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury’s installation War of Images, which is full of collages and objects like bandaids, burnt paper and cotton, highlighting the visual narrative of historical events rendered by the media and its attempt at translating time. The US President Donald Trump has a strainer placed over his mouth, as if stressing on the need to filter his words, and a smiling side portrait of Pope Francis is reflective of him redefining papacy with modesty and humility, in turn summing up history of the modern times.
The exhibition is on till January 18 at D 43, Defence Colony