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     Volume 6 Issue 32 | August 17, 2007 |

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Art to Survive

Elita Karim

A collage of the creations displayed by the students.

The recent exhibition of works by students of the Graphic Design Department of Charukala, Dhaka University showcased all that they have learnt in their undergraduate programme which stretches far beyond the usual four years. Due to the frequent session jams, finishing the bachelor's course in seven to eight years instead of 4 years has become customary for the students of this institution. Session jams are very usual for students belonging to the University of Dhaka, requiring an extra year for the students to complete with their graduation. However, in the case of students studying in Charukala, the time required to graduate doubles. Since the work here requires a lot of hands-on training, contemplation and practical work, it simply cannot be compared to the crash studying of theoretical courses in the other institutions of the university.

This colourful event had a range of creations starting from scrawls, scribbles and basic design work way back from their freshman year to the defined and expressive graphic representations in their final year. The exhibition showcased excellent workmanship of these students displaying children's books made out of hand made paper, wooden pop outs and colourful designs, mock promotions made for products using media like papers of all kinds, oil and water colour, print materials, 3D software and more. Each student even had his or her own version of the Bangla fonts done flawlessly by hand. An interesting display was the TV telope, placards that were used during the early days of television. These placards marked the beginning or the ending of television programmes, with artistic fonts starting from calligraphic to letters with frills and flowers.

According to the students of this department, even though they have developed their artistic abilities to a great extent, there is still a lot left to learn. "The syllabus that we follow here is backdated," says Rakibul Ahsan Limon, one of the participants in the exhibition and also a student of the department. "We cannot apply the knowledge that we acquire in the department when we go out to work. We are still stuck with experimenting with typographies, colours and fonts. All the digital work, 3D animation work and other graphics software creations are not taught to us here at all. We have to spend extra time and money outside at private institutions to get the latest grasp on the modern technologies."

The syllabus that is followed in 2007 is not all that different than the one used in 1958, says Rudaba. "We chose this institution because we love the art of Graphic Design. But I wish we could also apply what we are learning here, to build our careers."

For one thing, the department introduced computers only recently, where both the students and teachers can work for a better output. "It's funny because some of our teachers still view the computer the way they did years ago," says Limon. "It is very difficult to get access to the computers in the department. Firstly, only three to four computers have been installed in the department. Hence it is more of a hassle now that everyone tries to use them. Secondly, our teachers and professors view computers as a very complicated and sophisticated device, a technology that is very sensitive and cannot be handled by everyone."

The students feel that internship programmes at different companies should be included in the undergraduate programme.

Where a subject like graphic design is developing almost every other day in the rest of the country, this particular department has taken a seat way behind in Charukala. Hence graduates from this university find it extremely difficult to cope with the real world while building their career. Farzana Khondkar, for instance, a graduate from the graphic design department, has been working as a designer at Pride, a textile establishment for quite some time. "What I have noticed is that as compared to the others, I have the craftsmanship within," she says. "I understand colour, designs and shapes better than others around. In spite of all that I faced many obstacles during my initial stages of work." Farzana blames it on her lack of knowledge concerning computers, the related software and other forms of modern technology. She, like her fellow students, had to take up private courses to learn more about the work done on software and computers.

Limon works at an advertisement firm as an artist and graphics designer. "We have the ability to exaggerate beauty when we see it," he explains. "We can work with space, colour, shades and natural elements and make something as trivial as fallen leaves in autumn turn into a festival of colours. The firm that I work in is very small, and I do most of the artwork, designs and layouts. Even though I do the basic artwork on paper, I have my colleague apply it using the computer since he is so much faster than I am. He is not even a student of graphics design like I am."

Mamun Kaiser, the associate professor of the Graphics Design Department in Charukala says that the craftsmanship that is being taught here should be enough for the students to qualify as a true graphics designer. “Computers and software are a very recent addition to this part of the world. Why would we have to depend on them to identify ourselves with this art form?” he remarks. A former student of this department, Kaiser joined the university as a teacher in 1987. He says that Charukala is not an independent institution. Changing its syllabus or even asking for more funds take up a lot of time. “We have set up a few computers very recently in the department though we hardly have enough chairs, tables and classrooms for our students even today. The fund that we get every year from the university is not enough to set up labs and computers. Looking for other sources of funds is also very difficult.”

Anupam Huda has been a lecturer of this department for the last three and a half years. A former student of the same department, he says that graphics design is not only any other form of art, rather today it is also strongly related to marketing policies in any business enterprise. After the Charukala was established, the graphic design department had reviewed its syllabus and was revised in the year 1991. However, it's high time that yet another revision is done. “Fund is probably the main source of all our problems. If we had enough funds then we could have supplied the students with enough computers,” he says.

Rudaba Mohsin along with her fellow students feels that internships at various companies can solve this problem. “I was checking out a foreign university online where I found that students have to go through intense hands on training in the case of graphics design just like we do here,” says Rudaba. “But in their final year, these students are trained accordingly with the help of computer programmes and sent to different companies for internships. Not only does it help the students to build the true artist within, deal with colour, space and ideas but also keep up with the rest of world with practical knowledge.”

Photos: Amirul Rajiv

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