Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

Alpana: A medley of exquisite colours and designs

Flowers, animals, birds, folk art --these are the recurrent motifs of Alpana. This art form adds to the ambience of occasions such as marriages and special days in our tradition. Yesterday on Ekushey, Alpana was visible once more at Shaheed Minar, roads and other venues. To gauge the popularity of this art and changes over the past, The Daily Star spoke to Mahmudul Haque, Director General, Bangladesh National Museum and Rafi Haque, artist and general secretary of Society for Promotion of Bangladesh Art.

Mahmudul Haque
In Haque's words, "Alpana, a very popular form of art, has a long history. Though the motifs are mostly flowers, there are also folk motifs, horses, birds and elephants. The techniques of Alpana differ. In the villages it is made out of rice powder. Now in the cities, it is mostly made in acrylic.

There have been changes in the form and design over the years. For instance, people are experimenting with geometrical forms. Just as life is changing, so are designs. People want to introduce an element of innovation.

"I used to do Alpana as a student and later teacher at the Institute of Fine Arts. This was in front of the Shaheed Minar. Though I no longer do Alpana because of my various commitments, as in previous years, the roads around Shaheed Minar are decorated with Alpana."

Rafi Haque
"I primarily do etchings and lithographs. I first did Alpana in Shaheed Minar for Ekushey February 18 years ago along with my students and teacher, Professor of Arts College, Institute of Fine Arts Hashem Khan. He has made immense contributions to Alpana and has his own design books for this art form. Each and every student from first or second year continues to do Alpana for Ekushey.

"Alpana has a long tradition in our country. Alpana is used on many festive occasions like Ekushey, marriages and Bengali festivals like Pahela Baisakh. It is popular because it is related to every movement in the country. Udichi was the first cultural organisation to start Alpana here (from the 1950s). They are still doing Alpana at Pahela Baisakh every year.

"The motifs are usually designs such as flowers and leaves. Human figures, birds and animals are other motifs, which I saw in India. Basically Alpana is done from rice flour in the villages.

"Every artist has done Alpana at some point of time or other it is part of the course. Other eminent people doing Alpana are Hashem Khan, Chandrashekar Dey, Habibur Rahman, Quayum Chowdhury, Kamrul Hasan, Shishir Bhattacharjee and Samar Jit Roychowdhury.

"Shaheed Minar is a popular venue for Alpana at Ekushey. I participated in the art work of Alpana with other artists this year as well." In a poetic vein, he adds, "The inspiration comes from the soul; it cannot be forced."

Geometrical designs adorn the Shaheed Minar. PHOTO: Star File Photo