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      Volume 11 |Issue 41| October 19, 2012 |


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Rivers of Bangladesh
Rivers of the World

Maya Barolo

The 2012 Rivers of the World exhibition opened in Dhaka last week, at the Rabindra Sarobar on Dhanmondi Lake, showcasing the artwork of children from six schools in Sylhet, which celebrates the river Surma and its surrounding community.

Rivers of the World is the flagship initiative of the UK Thames Festival Trust's art and education project. Supported by the British Council's Connecting Classrooms programme and sponsored by HSBC Global Education Programme, the project involves over 2000 young people from all over the world. Since its inception six years ago, it has connected 135 schools in 18 countries. Each year the exhibition showcases river-inspired artwork that is created collaboratively by students and artists and is displayed in each of the participating cities. This year 13 and 14-year old students in London were partnered with schools in Argentina, Indonesia, South Korea, Northern Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh.

Rivers of the World, via their international school partnerships, gives young people the opportunity to build a relationship with their counterparts in countries thousands of miles away, while at the same time learning about their own local river and community. The aim of Rivers of the World is not only to engage young people in a debate about local and global issues and develop an international perspective, but also to encourage the arts through artist-led workshops in printmaking, design, textiles photography and fine arts.

The Bangladesh edition of the Rivers of the World features artwork produced by students from six schools in Sylhet, under the guidance of Dhaka-based artist and cartoonist Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy, celebrating the River Shurna. Tanmoy was responsible for the thematic conceptualisation of the artwork - Working River, River Life, Resourceful River, River Culture, River Pollution and River City - and assigned one theme to each of the schools selected by the British Council. The school children then used different traditional mediums - like nakshi kantha and pot chitra (scroll painting) - as well as contemporary styles - like comic book strips and rickshaw art - to highlight issues surrounding the river.

The majority of students involved in the Rivers of the World exhibition had no previous art training. But Tanmoy, who initially had his doubts about producing 'visionary artwork via the hands of school children', remembered the words of Pablo Picasso, who said, 'all children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he groups up'. In fact, Tanmoy found that despite his formal training in art composition, his students were 'more fluent in drawing and discovering forms in their own style'.

Representing the British Council at the inaugural event, Robin Davies summarised 'in four words what the exhibition is about: art, education, children and global networks.' Noting that the Council's mission is to 'break down barriers between cultures', Davies emphasised the unique role art plays in facilitating 'communication between cultures that don't understand each other's languages'. Explaining the importance of working with young people, Davies said that 'education at the age of 13 and 14, is very important because it is at that age that children open their eyes and start to see not only the local community, but the world around them.' It is critical to invest in young people, he said, because 'they are the leaders of tomorrow and it is very important that the young people of today don't make the same mistakes as the previous generation.'

Rivers of the World is open through October 19, 10:30 am to 6 pm daily, at Rabindra Sarobar in Dhanmondi.


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