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For children, of children, by children

The painting by Fatima Akter, age ten, was of the fearsome beasts she saw on a school visit to the zoo, while Moinuddin, only five years old, depicted the pathshala in Dhaka where he goes to KG. These were just two of the twelve vibrant and colourful paintings by children on display.

Saturday, December 17 saw the prize-giving ceremony for the 1st Intervida National Painting Competition, one in which twelve paintings drawn by children who study at Intervida schools were chosen by a jury of other Intervida students, to be featured in a special 2006 calendar put out by the organization.

The difference in this competition was that not only were all the many thousand competitors all children, but the selection of the eventual winners was conducted solely by the children themselves at every level of the process, from the classroom, to the school, to the district, to the national level.

"We were the ones who chose," said Bilal, a student at an Intervida pathshala in Dhaka, "Our teachers didn't try to tell us anything or influence our decision."

The result was 12 wonderful paintings from children of all ages, from five to seventeen, that have been reproduced for the Intervida calendar for 2006, and an opportunity to participate, both as competitors and judges, for the children.

Intervida promotes the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child and tries to live by the values of the Convention, which emphasizes children's rights to full participation and right to form and express their own views. The painting competition was organized to reflect and reinforce these ideas.

"This competition was for the children, and they did everything with minimal supervision of their teachers or anyone else. This is their vision," Alejandro Escalona who works for Intervida told me. "The point was to let them be the ones to decide which paintings would be chosen."

Fundacion Intervida is a non-partisan and self-sustained NGO founded in Spain, and has been working in Bangladesh since 1999 with a special focus on the rights of children. Among other things, the organization runs schools and children's homes in Dhaka and elsewhere around the country for the poorest and most vulnerable.

By Zafar Sobhan
Zafar Sobhan is Assistant Editor of The Daily Star.

Brine Pickles' 'Performance Literature'

15th December, just a day before our Victory Day, the Brine Pickles put up a stage performance at the British Council auditorium.

Brine Pickles is a talented literary organization of young writers from Bangladesh. Recently, they attended a five-day Creative Writing workshop at the British Council, working with a group of writers from East Anglia, UK. A 'Performance Literature' show was planned on the 15th, and the two groups joined hand-in-hand to exhibit their talents.

The show started sharp at 6:15, the whole auditorium was put 'in the mood' with lighting and background music, the last being provided by Brine Pickles members Theotonius Gomes, Joe Dunthorne, and Hasan Ameen. The whole show was divided into three segments, each having its own theme. The performance consisted of short story readings and poetry recitation, which was presented through a creative medley of lighting, music, and choreography. The performers worked with body movements and voice acting to compensate for the lack of props and backgrounds, which lent a very interesting effect.

The show opened up with a 'Chair' routine, which introduced the players. A single chair on stage was the sole prop that played many roles throughout the programme. The routine was kicked off by Sabrina F Ahmad, who read out her Ode to the Chair, explaining the different roles the chair played. A half-pantomime followed, in which one by one the other players acted out a small role-play involving the chair which represented a rickshaw, a toilet seat, a seat at a beauty salon, and more.

The chair routine ended with a poem by Sabreena Ahmed, which led to the first segment of the show, titled the 'Blues'. This was where the writers recited their emotionally charged poems and short stories. The use of blue lighting, and voice acting to represent the sound of waves, worked to create the melancholy atmosphere for the segment. It ended with a rendition of the song “On my knees”, written and composed by Theo Gomes, with Joe Dunthorne on the bass.

The next segment included all the literary works surrounding a single theme- 'The Party'. Poems, and short stories involving a party theme followed, with music and choreography to give it a theatrical touch. This was very creatively done because the actors themselves doubled up as props for each other's pieces, so that the result was one seamless party scene with different characters and sub-plots. To the general audience, this was probably the most interesting and thrilling segment, particularly a short drama about a futuristic couple fighting over a newly-purchased robot. Tanvir Hafiz had the crowd giggling to his robotic antics.

The final sequence was the Circle sequence, where the writers coming up on stage one by one and introducing their colleagues and saying a word or two about them. Jazz poet, performer and workshop leader Dinesh Allirajah got the audience snapping their fingers with to his rap rendition of one of his jazz poems! All in one, the show was a superb portrayal of literary work. We hope Brine Pickles keep up their good work and present us more such amazing works of their own in the future.

By Shamma Manzoor Raghib

Trade fair
No fear

To be rather clichéd: the trade fair is back. Even amidst the current tendency towards spontaneous explosions at any place and time. Given the recent trend of events featuring massive chunks of rather destructive material, you'd think that things might not be quite so smooth for the trade fair and the people behind the scenes of it. And you'd be right, too, but that's not stopping the good people of Dhaka from enjoying the fair.

White-haired presidents in the far west might consider the current goings-on in Dhaka as a sign of the reign of terror, and proceed to whine, rant, rave, and squash creatures underfoot as a response. Here in Bangladesh, though, we do things a little bit differently; instead of pulverizing entire populaces underfoot, we beef up security and keep perpetrators of such incidents out of range. Accordingly, the DITF now has no less than four hundred and fifty policemen on duty at any point in time, all spick and span in their blue and green. There's also fifty individuals of the ever-vigilant Rapid Action Battalion, and for good measure, there's fifty of the Rifles, too. Couple that with the metal detectors, under-car reflectors, and x-ray scanners at every gate, and you have a fairly airtight net to get virtually anything through.

And while some people resent the whole air of paranoid security, at least it means that most people inside the premises can look around at their leisure without being in constant fear of getting turned into mincemeat. And that is a good number of people, even on the Sunday afternoon that this reporter went to take a look and discover how completely the terror has gripped our good people in and around the fair. In all fairness, once you're inside the fair seems to be the same as always; a little bit dusty with a sizable helping of loud and rather silly advertising.

The staples, as usual, are present, and are doing brisk business; the Pakistani and Iranian stalls are selling quite as well as ever, as are the wide variety of leather-goods-dealers all around the place. There's also the usual large number of local clothing outlets, including Grameen Check, etc; plus, in what is probably their most prominent appearance ever, there are the various mobile phone companies splattered over the entire fair. Banglalink, in particular, is very prominent indeed, with a great big billboard advertisement just outside the main gate, and a lot of Banglalink sunshade umbrellas (frequently at a towering three feet off the ground) to accompany the rather big, and very busy stall.

There are also, as always, the good old food shops, retailing, at mildly shocking prices, the usual everything from roast chicken to popcorn. They're not doing too badly in the wake of terror, either; in fact, there are people from most walks of life gobbling down delicacies of the range cited with great gusto.

One thing you do get to notice though is that the extra manpower devoted to security is quite apparent, and by the looks of it, quite purposeful too. One can barely walk three minutes in any direction without coming across one of the fine officers in uniform, valiantly protecting innocents from malevolent evildoers. There are also new stalls catering to the security industry that probably weren't standard fare a year ago.

Nice little touches this year that weren't there before? The occasional bench reserved for the elderly, and Apollo hospital's similar resting area for the mother-and-child combo. Things that are (happily) the same as always? The electronics dealers, who are throwing in attractive promotional offers it would be silly to miss. The rest? The same as always.

Which, incidentally, is brilliant, because it means that despite the omens and threats and whatnot, the people of Bangladesh are alive, and kicking, and not particularly daunted. Kudos to the organizers for making the place safe enough for most people to go to without worrying their heads off, and equal kudos to everyone who's been there already this year. Are we scared? We'd be stupid not to be. Are we beaten? Naw….

By Lancer


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