Beneath each layer of dirt and on every speckle of dust lies a story forever concealed in the realms of time. These fantastical tales remain timeless, yet buried beneath the footprints of millions of generations of beings. Indian artist Niaz Majumdar tried to uncover these very tales in his interpretations using the terracotta form as his medium. The nine-day-long terracotta exhibition titled The Taste of Mother Clay recently concluded at the Dhaka Arts Center in the capital. But the stories he told in those few days continue to persevere.
Currently a lecturer of the Media and Communications Department of AIUB, Majumdar fell in love with clay gradually, with the interest sparking whilst studying at Shantiniketan under the tutelage of the legendary artist Samnath Hore. Born and brought up in Delhi, Majumdar spent a better part of almost a decade teaching at the Kerala University and upon coming to Bangladesh, he reignited his passion for the terracotta.
“It was here in Bangladesh that I really fell in love with the unique characteristics of clay; its ability to take up so many forms and of course its beautiful fragrance,” Majumdar recalls. For his 28 artworks, Niaz Majumdar derived inspiration from everything around him, continuing to mould all his emotions into pieces of clay-art. Divided into three segments titled Sompur Bihar Series, Fishermen Community Series and Study Series is his first and perhaps Dhaka’s first pure ceramic exhibition.
The Fishermen Community series is perhaps the one tinged with most melancholy. There is a tragic beauty in the graphic representation of the fisherman’s life in Kerala. The pieces attempt to invoke a contrast of emotions from hope to despair and grief to joy. The pieces try to capture the anxiety that one faces with their loved ones out at sea and the realisation of an irrecoverable loss. The works transform into narratives, whispering ballads of fishermen lost at sea and those that succumbed to the might of the ocean.
Pieces titled “Condolence”, “Mourning Fisherman” and “Condolence Meeting”, among others, capture the numerous stages that the fishermen’s community faces. Based on the artist’s sketches whilst teaching at Kerala University, these are more than just a figment of an artist’s imagination or a homage to his creativity; these are actual tales that took place years ago and are now forever immortalised.
The Sompur Bihar series chronicles the historical artefacts of Sompur Bihar at Paharpur in Naogaon district in Bangladesh, a World UNESCO heritage site. The artist, in this series, tries to piece together broken fragments of artefacts in an attempt to understand a glory once lost. The destroyed motifs are given a new life in the artist’s rendition, as he attempts to piece together a history forgotten in his own way. This series is all about understanding and discovering, almost like putting an image behind a faceless yet familiar mask. 7 pieces of work make up the Sompur Bihar series.
The Study series follows six pieces which are inspired by nature. Interestingly, all of the artist’s works were started and completed at a potter’s house in Shariatpur, far away from the main city of Dhaka.
“It was not possible for me to get inspiration in Dhaka. In Shariatpur, I felt close to my people, the Matir Manush and the closeness to nature the place offered inspired me to dive deeper into my works,” Majumdar explains. He also adds that although he never really thought of holding a solo exhibition, the entire scenario played out on his own and whilst working on numerous projects involving terra-cotta, Majumdar found himself in possession
of enough to hold an exhibition.
Niaz Majumdar’s Taste of Mother Clay was indeed an outstanding start for a debutant and it will not be surprising to see more of the same or even better works from the artist in the future.