Emotions reflect a complex state of mind and faces mirror them. Faces tell a thousand stories and thus we love to study them, to look at them and scrutinize every emotion they echo. And only the talented and versatile and the artistically inclined minds among us ordinary humans can actually recreate these wonderful and varied sentiments through the art of making masks.
Masks have, since time immemorial, been a medium to expose dramatic portraits of spirit beings, departed ancestors, and invisible powers of social control and their culture is very rich and strong in the African continent. Here in Bangladesh the culture of appreciating or collecting these magnificent works of art has been confined to only a handful of aficionado. As a result artists here are not making commercial crafts but are actually producing exclusive art work.
To patronize this line of work Galleri Kaya in Uttara has organised a ten-day exhibition, Mukh o Mukhosh, by a group of contemporary artists.
"Remember that saffron yellow, red and black striped, cheap paper mache tiger face masks the vendors used to sell on lazy afternoons? His call for little children would stir up neighbourhoods and excite us beyond comprehension. He would always be the reason for cheap innocent fun for us children.
"Well his paper mache mask has now been replaced by plastic ones, I am sure you've also noticed that. This only translates into one sad story; our folk arts or crafts are all lost in time," this is what Goutam Chakraborty, Director, Galleri Kaya, gives as reason to hold such a unique exhibition.
Mukh o Mukhosh is an experience; you only have to attend the exhibition to comprehend it. Wood, glass, terracota, paper mache, paper folding, metal, glaze ceramics, draw cord and nylon, embroidered cotton, painted plaster and mixed material were the medium used by 16 contemporary artists.
Saidul Haque Juise is one of the famous few artists who make masks in our country. His exhibit is a pair of magnificent paper folding masks, which are not less than eight feet in height. The saffron yellow and red printed couple from our folklore 'Behula and Lakhindar' is bound to take your breath away. The sheer size of this pair is enough to make one understand the amount of work that goes into conceiving the idea to actually producing it.
Another artist, who is still a third year student of Bachelor of Fine Arts, Sandip Kumer Debnath proved his worth in the exhibition. " I want to promote creative artists and it is not mandatory to have certificates to be able to take part in such exhibition. His good work is the certificate I want," says Chakraborty while promoting Debnath, whose masks were apparently getting the hot cake treatment on the inaugural day.
This exhibition is a must-visit place this week for the people of Dhaka.
By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Munem Wasif