The man who made the statues talk
By Rannia Shehrish and Tamim Sujat
Statues are mysterious. They make you think, invoke feelings in you and leave you in awe every time. While some represent a strong history, others are just pointless, only there to make you laugh. But nonetheless, statues are and at all times will be an object of beautification and will never stop amazing us. As for me, I always wondered at how cement, wood or stones are brought to life just by carving them accurately and all the hard work behind each statue. Therefore, being able to meet Mrinal Hoque was a great honour.
Mrinal Hoque is an internationally reputed sculptor and muralist whose works not only adorn Bangladesh, but also New York City. With exhibitions in about 30 countries, both solo and group, he has introduced Bangladesh to the world at a whole new level. Along with numerous prestigious awards such as the 2012-Best Sculptor Award and Dhirendronath Dutta Memory gold medal, he is the only foreigner ever to be assigned the responsibility for New York City's beautification. His works have been praised by many media and recently he was interviewed by CNN, which has been broadcasted several times.
Since his childhood, he was an enthusiastic artist and sculptor but originally his dream was to become a scientist. Constructing electric motors and artificially hatching eggs - his plan was unaltered till before entering college. When asked about the reason behind his career choice, his answer was that statues can reach everyone, “Paintings remain within the four walls of the rich and their beauty is not shared with the ordinary people. I believe that art is for everyone, it is there to change their thought patterns.” His professional work began with murals, the first of which was done in '77, before entering college.
Mrinal Hoque talks a lot about overcoming hindrances, having faced several political and religious ones for his works. “It is very difficult to get permission for land before beginning a project. It involves visiting numerous people before getting the space and even after receiving permission, religious fanatics stand as a barrier. Finding a sponsor is another difficulty, and most of my works didn't receive any funding.” He had once built four statues representing Lalon and his companions next to the entrance of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport which were brought down by a religious mob after several failed attempts to convince the government to take action against them. “There's a fine line between idols and statues. What I build are sculptures, a form of art and not idols. A group of extremist people fail to understand that.”
Despite the impediments, his persistence with his work remains intact. Throughout the interview, patriotism was evident in his voice and it was no surprise when he told us his source of motivation and inspiration - the ordinary people. He continues creating masterpieces from wood, clay, marble, bronze and cement to recycled materials. He believes that when creating sculptures and murals, one should portray creativity with precision but not base it on precision alone. “If an artist is able to mould whatever material he finds into a piece of work, then he is a true artist.” His favourite piece of work is Borsha Rani, a statue of peacocks made from spare vehicle parts. Recently, he had to repair it because thieves had stolen some of the parts from the statue.
As we neared the end of the interview, Mrinal Hoque talked about determination in chasing dreams, of pursuing success relentlessly. He expressed disappointment at the present society and the lethargy of the young generation. But he hopes it will change and he advised the current youth to be more pragmatic and persistent in what they do.
We hope we can live up to it.