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     Volume 7 Issue 18 | May 3, 2008 |

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Art for Kuakata

Nader Rahman

Mohammad Eunus, Sidr in Kuakata

The devastation of cyclone SIDR was well documented, thousands lost their lives while hundreds of thousands of others are still in a state of limbo. Their lives were damaged beyond what anyone of us could ever imagine. Houses and livelihoods were trashed as children lost their parents and importantly a sense of hope. While people tried to find their feet after the initial shock of the calamity, the children were left by the way side. The cyclone destroyed their schools and what should be their inherent sense of careless abandon. But a few dedicated organisations and individuals realised that the sanctity of childhood was at stake. Working for Better Life (WBL) along with numerous other people and organisations tried their best to help the children of the SIDR affected areas. Eventually (WBL) they set up a safe place called “Mamar Bari”, where people were given as much support as they could. ActionAid and UNICEF stepped in to help with the project as it started to flourish.

Tarun Ghosh, Sidr

The children were taught by young boys and girls from the surrounding locality and soon it emerged that aside from studies they were looking for more creativity in their lives. They started with small art, music and drama activities and soon some of the big names in art scene became aware of this phenomenon. They wanted to help out in their own way an organised an art camp, interacting with the local children and each other to create some stunning pieces of art. Most amazingly the artists donated all the work they created at the camp so that proceeds from their sales would help fund Mamar Bari for as long as possible. For people who earn their living off art, it was a very noble move to donate their work, but one feels it was for a praiseworthy cause.

After the artists had generously donated their work to Mamar Bari the next step was to organise an exhibition. With so many pieces of art to display, they came up with an innovative idea to have simultaneous exhibitions at Drik and the Alliance Francaise. The twelve artists, Tarun Ghosh, Ranjit Das, Mohammad Eunus, Kazi Salahuddin Ahmed, Tayeba Begum Lipi, Nazia Andaleeb Preema, Mahbubur Rahman, Sheikh Ahsan Ullah Mojumder, Dominik Gomes, Ronni Ahmed, Kazi Sayeed Ahmed and Nahid Niazi Nipu, represented a cross section of Bangladeshi art community.

In Drik Dominik Gomes had a small but well worked selection of art. There was his Kuakata series where he used sand, dark blue and a rich yellow for his personal representation of the area. The pieces were small and gave off an earthy feeling, specially with the sand pasted to it. The abstract I AM AM I really stood out, against a light grey background there was a thick back spine that almost seemed to protrude with the words 'I am, and ;am I' written in either side of it. Ranjit Das had a selection of water colours where he blended soft pastels with dabs of black. He also used his canvas brilliantly, leaving acres of free space, giving the colours the room they need. Almost recreating the landscape he saw in Kuakata, devoid of trees, houses and generally barren. Ronni Ahmed came up with a few interesting creations, Asparagus Garden was created out of card board, with little pieces of papers sneaking through the perforated material, all tinged with a metallic shade of silver grey. Knight of the Emperor and The Flaying Dutch Man seemed like complimentary paintings with essentially the same form, an almost praying mantis position, just the slim lines and dark shades of the emperor were fleshed out in the dutch man.

Tarun Ghosh's experience was invaluable as seemed to truly use Kuakata as his muse. His paintings were lonely and desolate while for Kuakata 1 there seemed to be life bubling just beneath the surface. There was a seamless blend of colours and textures, giving the impression of steam coming off the top of a filthy lake. With white and grey and section of blue and light red that stood out, the large piece was truly a visual treat.

One might be tempted to say Mohammad Eunus had the best collection of work there, his work showed tremendous variety. Sidr 3 and 4 on cardboard were well textured and treated, with Bangla alphabets in the background ghost-like spirals emerge from the painting, still leaving the face which dominates the work in the foreground. Mahbubur Rahman had a collection full of whimsy and playfulness. His startlingly absurdist work incorporated carved up plastic dolls meshed into cardboard and lightly painted. Appendages hanging out of nowhere, dinosaurs with hands and feet, a baby with the body of a goat all made his work more than fascinating.

Dominik Gomes, I AM AM I Roni Ahmed, Horse with no name

At the Alliance Francasie with a larger gallery, the work was better organised and spread out. Kazi Salahuddin Ahmed's work was unmistakable with his eye for what one might call lazy detail. The painting in question, was a traffic jam of houses and rooftops seen from above, vibrant, colourful and full of movement all belied the fact that they were inanimate objects without a soul in sight anywhere, with that in mind it was also well titled, Urbanisation. Tayeba Begum Lipi came up with yet another strong body of work, beautifully titled Ophelia of Kuakata, continued from Drik where the work was darker. Her yellow and purple images seem almost ethereal, yet tangible. Kazi Sayed Ahmed's best work was undoubtedly Before Sidr, where with the use of cut up sacks he playfully recreated the landscape of Kuakata as it must have been before the cyclone. With shapes of trees set against the rich blue backdrop, one might be temped to call it more crafts-like than art. Along with Shekih Ashan ullah Mojumder and Nazia Andaleeb Preema who also had work on display the exhibition was well executed and should go a long way in helping out the children of Kuakata affected by Sidr, that is if people are generous enough to buy art for a great cause.

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