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     Volume 6 Issue 39 | October 5, 2007 |

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A Piece of Bangladesh in Paris

Bangladesh is all set to get some positive global exposure when the country's rich repository of archaeology, paintings, fashions, traditional boats, photos and films will be put on international display in Paris, the capital of arts and culture. France's famous Guimet Museum, the foremost European museum dedicated to Asian arts, will mainly sponsor the four-month-long exhibition styled 'Sonar Bangla' that will begin in Paris, the most visited city in the world (record 78 million visitors in France 2006), on October 24 this year. A catalogue, which is both an art book and a research reference book, is being published, including an English version.

A total of 188 objects selected from Bangladesh National Museums; Dhaka National Museum, Mahasthangarh, Paharpur and Mainamati Archaeological Museums and Varendra Research Museum will be showcased at the Guimet Museum. France and Bangladesh are working together in the field of archaeology since 1993. A France-Bangladesh joint archaeological mission has long been carrying out annual excavations, usually in February-March, on the site at Mahasthan, which has the remains of the oldest town in Bangladesh, and a fruitful collaboration with the National Museum in Dhaka is also ongoing.

French and Bangladeshi experts have worked long and hard together towards that goal ; they know each other well and have an ongoing dialogue. Two successive governments of Bangladesh have given an unreserved backing to this project.

The exhibition will be arranged between national museums, meaning that the French Government is directly involved: it is the Ambassador of France who signed the agreements with Bangladesh. As such, it is the French Government who guarantees the return of the items loaned and any suggestions that those items may not come back is unwarranted.

“I wish that the media can inform the people of Bangladesh that such an international exhibition in Paris is safe, that it's purpose is to bring even more closer the people of France and Bangladesh in a very noble field of co-operation: Culture and dialogue of cultures, and that it can only benefit the image of their country world-wide,” urged the French Ambassador in Bangladesh Jacque Andre Costilhes while addressing a press briefing at a city hotel on September 25, of this year.

That such a venture might be unsafe has emerged among non-specialists of the civil society recently. This feeling is understandable, but it is obviously the result of a misconception, which can be easily dispelled.

The Guimet Museum is a French National museum, and therefore answerable to the French Government. It hosts regular international exhibitions, the latest being on the treasures of Afghanistan, especially gold artefacts, which attracted thousands of persons daily. Such exhibitions are held under the strictest international rules and never, not even once, has any artefact gone missing or failed to be returned to its home museum. In fact, since the pieces are cleaned and restored by the best specialists worldwide, they often return in a better state than when they left. All knowledgeable parties involved in this venture, and more specially, of course, the government of Bangladesh, have recognised the tremendous opportunity this is for Bangladesh and have supported the project, which will project a positive wider image of Bangladesh abroad.

This is the first international exhibition of the richness of Bangladeshi heritage, sponsored entirely by the French side. It will be reinforced by a number of side exhibitions and artistic performances co-ordinated by the French Embassy in Dhaka with the help of Bangladeshi artists and partners.

The traditional Boats of Bangladesh exhibition organised by the Bangladeshi NGO Friendship and the French Embassy in Dhaka at the Navy Museum in Paris where over fifty models of boats will be on display together with parts of life-sized boats ; two Bangladeshi carpenters will also show their know-how by building models in front of the audience. This exhibition will also travel to other cities after Paris.

The Bengal Foundation and the French Embassy are arranging an exhibition of twelve of the major artists of Bangladesh to be held in the CROUS gallery in the heart of Paris.

Over twenty of the best documentary films on Bangladesh, subtitled in French at the Alliance Française in Dhaka, will be screened at the Guimet auditorium from November 2007 to March 2008.

A fashion show is planned to reciprocate the “Paris comes to Dhaka” with a “Dhaka comes to Paris”.

Often, it is only negative news about Bangladesh that usually interests the international media. This exhibition is a major step toward changing that perception by allowing Bangladesh to join the cultural world stage, which its rich culture fully deserves.

Shakhawat Hossain is Attaché de Pressé, Embassy of France.


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