New Beginning for Art in Southern Bangladesh
SADAT MAHDI and SARWAR K. JAHAN
Kadam, Koroi and Debdaru trees lining the Munsi Meherullah
Road in Jessore town seem to huddle together in the rain.
Most of the stores are closed for the weekend. Just a few
"photocopy and phone" shops open at the Doratana
turning. Located about half a kilometre from the Doratana
turning, Charupith stands in the heart of Jessore town, opposite
the Women's College. Inspired by the philosophy and vision
of the maestro S. M. Sultan, and under his guidance, Charupith's
journey began in 1985. Through the years the art research
institute has grown through the sincere efforts of the two
artists Mahbub Jamal Shamim and Mokhlesur Rahman.
is establishing the first permanent art gallery in the Southern
region of Bangladesh. On September 10, 2004, the gallery was
inaugurated through the exhibition entitled "Shomomon
Shohojon". The Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts is Charupith's
companion in this endeavour--an exhibition showcasing the
work of 41 artists. Featuring the work of artists from Dhaka,
Khulna and Jessore, "Shomomon Shohojon" also introduces
first generation maestros Zainul, Quamrul and Sultan. It also
includes the work of newer, emerging artists, providing a
sense of continuity in terms of style of the development of
art in Bangladesh. It is the hope of the Bengal Gallery and
Charupith that the exhibition will also succeed in connecting
non-Dhaka audiences with the Dhaka-centric mainstream art
ceremony of "Shomomon Shohojon" was in the evening.
The gallery premises of Charupith were all dressed up for
the occasion, drawing all eyes to it. A styrofoam statuette
almost five feet high sat at the entrance of the narrow street
a red-headed woman, wearing a black bordered orange sari.
Over her head was the legend "Shomomon Shohojon".
We passed her by and walk along the earthen road--trees and
vines on our left, a wall on our right. The wall was is covered
with panel-painting. The artist Sohel explained: "I thought
that black and white would go very well with the shadowy,
half-light, half darkness of Charupith. So I used only black
paint and Aica."
the wall, the main entrance to Charupith. An open space, covered
with grass and ringed with Krishnachura, Taal and
Kadam trees just waiting to give us shade. However,
the sun had hidden his face in the clouds for that day. There
was even a lake nearby. The whole place seemed put together
to present an image of nature's perfection.
guests had started arriving from 5:30. Students of the Charupith
Shishu Shikkhalaya arrived with their parents in tow, the
poets and musicians of Jessore were here, a group of 15 had
arrived from the Khulna Art College. Teachers, students, journalists,
homemakers--we were meeting all sorts of people.
ceremony began. Mahbub Jamal Shamim, the Principal of Charupith
ascended the stage with selected guests. The Director General
of the National Museum, Mahmudul Haque was the Chief Guest,
the special guest was sculptor Hamiduzzaman Khan. The programme
was chaired by Abdul Hasib. Also seated on the stage were
Co-Chairperson of Charupith Bimalkumar Roy and the Bengal
Foundation's Director, Luva N. Choudhury. The guests were
welcomed with corsages of yellow marigolds. Then Shamim stood
up to speak to the invited guests. He welcomed all: "What
is happening here today is of great importance to us, a dream
that has been in our hearts for over a decade. Today the door
to fine art has been opened for the Southerners." He
expressed his hope that all Jessore inhabitants would walk
side by side Charupith and its dream, commencing an era of
artistic inspiration and creative imagination in all spheres
of life in Southern Bangladesh.
Choudhury spoke on the Bengal Foundation's interest in bringing
mainstream art out of Dhaka city and across Bangladesh. What
Bengal Foundation needed to make this vision real was a companion
organisation, sharing the same vision and located in the relevant
areas. When Charupith approached the Foundation, a friendship
was immediately formed. Artist Mokhlesur Rahman told the audience
about how both he and Shamim used to dream of an institution
like Charupith even when they had been students. It was in
1983 that their dream first became a reality. That year a
group exhibition of 23 artists was arranged at the Jessore
Public Library an exhibition inaugurated by S. M. Sultan.
"Then Charupith was established in 1985, and today, after
so many years, we are finally able to see the launching of
our gallery. We have been able to successfully launch the
gallery through "Shomomon Shohojon", largely due
to the efforts of the Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts." He
trusted that all citizens of Jessore would be part of this
wonderful effort and that art lovers throughout the country
would provide their support and friendship to the institute.
continued till 8 in the evening. It was then that the gallery
and the exhibition were formally opened to viewers. The gallery
comprises one large hallroom and two smaller rooms nearer
to the entrance.
Shohojon" featured 56 paintings and sculptures of 41
artists. The paintings included watercolours, oils, prints,
drawings acrylics. A mixed crop of artists participated in
this exhibition--from young aspiring painters to eminent artists
like Abdur Razzaque, Abdus Satter, Abdus Shakoor, Abul Barq
Alvi, Aminul Islam, Hashem Khan, Shishir Bhattacharya, Tarun
Ghosh, Rafiqunnabi, Qayyum Chowdhury, Mahmudul Haque, Mohammed
Kibria, Mokhlesur Rahman, Monirul Islam, Samorjit Roy Chowdhury,
Sheikh Afzal and Sheikh Sadi Bhuiyan along with the works
of the three maestros Zainul, Quamrul and Sultan, were also
featured in "Shomomon Shohojon".
Rafi Haque who was present at the inaugural remarked that
"Shomomon Shohojon" was a rich exhibition. Major
trends and styles were well-represented and the quality of
the pieces included was excellent. The inclusion of Zainul,
Quamrul and Sultan pointed towards the birth of fine art in
Bangladesh, while the works of Kibria, Aminul Islam and Hashem
Khan spoke of a time when the East and the West were merging
in terms of the language of artistic expression; cubism, impressionism,
expressionism, abstraction were shouldering orientalism, trying
to find their own places, trying to give birth to something
new and unique. The Kibrias and the Aminul Islams were searching
for their own paths which they eventually found. Of the paintings
on display at "Shomomon Shohojon", especially notable
is Qayyum Chowdhury's "Fishing in Floodwater", which
uses pieces of actual fishnets on the canvas, turning it into
a collage. All in all, "Shomomon Shohojon" can comfortably
rival any similar exhibition in Dhaka.
a under-graduate student of Khulna Art College, said that
"Shomomon Shohojon" was an opportunity for her,
as looking at the work of artists of different generations
was a learning experience in itself. Also the establishment
of the gallery in Jessore was heartening; they would no longer
need to search far to visit exhibitions or to hold their own.
Parvin, whose daughter was a student of the Charupith Shishu
Shikkhalaya, confessed that apart from the simple pictures
in the drawing books of her child, she had had no clear idea
about art. "This exhibition has shown me that art is
something greater and grander."
looking over the exhibition and the gallery, it was time to
refresh ourselves with tea and snacks. Lovely pithas
designed in the shape of flowers, fried potatoes and sweet
and hot tea.
is planning an exhibition and workshop to be run by sculptor
Hamiduzzaman Khan in the near future. They are also thinking
of building a "sculpture garden". Developing and
researching festival accompaniments is also a dream of theirs.
As the busy yet festive day ended, we all began to share in
these dreams, hoping for a long and successful journey for
(R) thedailystar.net 2004