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     Volume 8 Issue 68 | May 8, 2009 |

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Pottery with Panache

Fayza Haq
Photos: Zahedul I Khan

Interestingly named "Harappa" after the ancient civilisation, the exhibition being held at Drik gallery, that ends on May 8, of clay artwork, has shown how imagination, talent and a penchant for perfection can result in spectacular artwork. This delightful collection of clay pieces is the endeavour of a young, enterprising group of artists who call themselves Harappa. Not only are the designs attractive and innovative they are also unusually affordable unlike most works of art of such high quality. The wall panels, light shades, crockery and miscellaneous pottery bring in history, folk art and humour in a single exhibit room. A touch of abstract can be seen in some of the large wall panels that one is confronted with at the outset.

True there have been similar exhibits with decorative skill at the Institute of Fine Arts. Yet, no one can beat the smooth finishing of these products that can make wonderful presents for any occasion. The group members all have fairly sophisticated backgrounds, two of them being qualified artists, Sweden being a well-known prize-winning sculptor of repute.

The warrior in the chariot has been created with meticulous detail so that one can feel the energy of the warrior and the horse as well as imagine the wheels to be grinding away to the battlefield. Meticulous care and eye for realistic detail can be seen in the image of the physician which could be a symbol of death. The figures of the mythical birds, animals and moving hieroglyphics take one away into the realm of imagination and Middle Eastern history. The bejewelled collar, robe, sceptre, throne, are not just put in any manner, merely to attract or emulate Egyptian and Roman papyrus works, but have been done in trendy modes that have a unique style.

Top-Right: Samples of exotic curios on display. Bottom - Right: Interesting samples of “Harappa” pieces that catch one’s eyes at the entrance of the exhibit.



A nouveau and humorous fountain.

In a similar fashion the well -- beloved folk motifs have been highlighted with precision, presenting items like birds, peacocks, owls, doves, fish, crocodiles, snakes, river-scapes and scoops of clouds. The birds appear to be talking to each other, with the additional dots and dashes to lend them a nouveau angle. Flecks and circles give the individual touch. Similarly, the presentation of a single bird has been worked upon with immaculate care. There are sari-clad dancing dolls with little hands, tightly pulled bouffants. Floral motifs abound with a lyrical touch that adds poetry to the realistic presentation of well-known flowers, curled leaves and interwining tendrils. Samples of the scenic beauty of Bangladesh have been dissected and presented in beautiful bits and pieces of enduring charm. Every item has been laced with sophistication. There is nothing saccharine about the stylised presentation -- they are simply there as if holding some imaginative mental microscope to a passionate ode to the nightingales, peacocks and "doels" of Bangladesh. The circles and lines at the back stand for thick forests. A touch of a slightly more decorative detail hold the images together in the panel in splendid symmetry.

The element of the lighter side of life has not been ignored such as the rotund frogs in pretty fountains or playful ducklings that take one into the forgotten land of childhood.

So what prodded these artists to take on such a venture? Afser Ahmed, who has worked as a valuable contributor in two cultural local dailies says, "We began in 2006 when we promised to save traditional pottery industry of the country from being almost extinct. Our ancient potters have thousands of years of rich heritage and somehow we were determined to save the fate of the potters.”

He adds,” we wished to train our traditional potters and equip them with technology and make them more market focused. "Over the last three years, we had to face many challenges which we successfully overcame with our passion, hard work and sincerity. Today we take pride in believing that 'Harappa' is the largest pottery, terracotta and art ceramic product manufacturer of the country. The products of 'Harappa' have already been made available in the domestic market through local craft houses. A series of our own chain stores and export wing is on the way. A significant portion of the revenue is channelled back for continued development and preservation of these potter families.”

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