Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 6, Issue 01, Tuesday, January 04, 2011















Experience 'Earth from above'… under the open sky!

He discovered the beauty of the world seen from above as he became a hot air balloon pilot. He was fond of nature anyway and also a photographer. And thus began his experimenting with aerial photography. Eventually, “Earth from Above” was created…

In 1994, French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, sponsored by UNESCO, started conducting a thorough research on the state of the Earth by taking breathtaking pictures of landscapes taken from the sky, with an altitude ranging between 20 meters to 2000 meters.

A book was later published, named Earth from Above. Afterwards, he held a free exhibition by the same name, portraying the pictures as large-scale posters. Since then, the pictures have travelled across the globe. More than 130 million people in 140 cities have viewed this free outdoor exhibition.

Now the exhibition is being held in Dhaka, in front of National Parliament Building. It started on December 19, 2010 and will continue until February 19, 2011. US Bangladesh Foundation, Embassy of France in Bangladesh and Texeurop are the three partners of Earth from Above, Dhaka.

The purpose of the Earth from Above project is to make people aware of the environmental changes our planet is going through and how we are deteriorating such conditions. The photographer captures larger-than-life, awe-inspiring aerial photographs of landscapes from all over the world and presents them to people, complete with captions describing the relevant environmental issue for each. Even the exact locations of each photograph are presented (by giving precise geographical coordinates), so that other photographers or researchers may visit the places in the future to observe changes. Through this exhibition, the photographer wants people to take a moment to think of the sustainability of the planet, and do their bit to save the environment.

The location of the exhibition is perfect: it is in front of National Parliament Building- on the pavement beside the road where you get all the street food vendors. Under the open sky, with a cup of tea or coffee in your hand and the magnificent parliament building on one side , it is an experience to see these large photographs of some striking landscapes of the world, taken from high above.

By M H Haider
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


Zainul Utshab 2010

Jainul Abedin has been an iconic figure. Along with other stalwarts of the field, he institutionalised fine arts in this part of Bengal and has been, for generations after him, an inspiration to take up the love for art. To spread this “art fever” to a wider audience, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka arranged a three-day-long “Zainul Utshab” at Charukola, which for the last two years has been celebrated in conjecture to the renowned painter's birth anniversary.

“Last year the Zainul Utshab was a one day affair and in one year it evolved into a three day programme: 29 December to 31 December 2010. Our goal is to take this festival to a grander level, somewhat like the Boishakhi utshab” said Subbir Al Razy, Lecturer at Ceramics Department.

Anisuzzaman, Assistant Professor at the Department of Print Making reiterated that the idea for such a festival was to popularise art among the masses. “It honours Zainul Abedin and helps propagate his teachings”, he added. “The show has been the brain child of Professor Nisar Hossain and has been moulded in the framework of fairs seen in India, a positive aspect of the art scene in West Bengal."

In the handful of kiosks that featured in the festival, students of the various faculties displayed their works prints, watercolours, sculptures and “potchitras”. Also on display and sale were traditional artworks on clay pots 'lakkhishara' and 'shakher hari'; miniature masks and large sculptures made from fibre glass and wood.

Showing her sculpture of Vishnu, made in the distinguished Pala style, sculptor Mahmuda Khandakar explained that the work was done as a class project and is now on display and offered at a price.

“One of the primary goals of the festival is to showcase the work of young talents at the faculty. By selling a selection of their work a fund is generated which is used to expedite costs for arranging art workshops and excursions.

“Teachers and Professors of the faculty also take part, offering some of their works at the festival. The whole proceedings go into a fund”,said Anisuzzaman.

Tahmeena Akhter asserted that throughout the three days of the fair, the response of the crowd was favourable. “People” the student of Crafts department observed, “have shown keen interest especially in the calendars, woodcrafts, greeting cards and the decorated note pads.”

Found busy choosing prints at one stall, Saleh Najmul a business executive found the whole affair spellbinding. “I have a small collection of art and the prices of the works presented here are unbelievable. I could never pay the high-end price tag on a piece by Samarjit Roy Chowdhury but here I can buy his drawing at a fraction of the price. In this fair I also found a lot of goodies that will make the perfect wedding or anniversary gifts.”

Art speaks a universal language, but the tongue varies, each distinct and eloquent. Bangladeshi art has a unique position in the world scene and it's high time that we learn to cherish our rich heritage. “Zainul Utshab” provides a platform for students and the arts faculty at the university. As this hopes to grow in the future, it commits to embrace a wider audience and present a new perspective of Bangladeshi art.

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif


Remembering Pankaj

Pankaj was a lady who loved 'Nouvelle Vague' and 'Lanee derniere a Marianbade' many decades back. Someone who enjoyed scrabble; a gourmet who excelled in items like 'Sahan Ka Halwa', in which she included pieces of walnuts , almonds and raisins ( which my sister, incidentally carried to Toronto exactly 15 years back for my nephew, Zubin; a person who did oil paintings which were hung all along the staircases). Such an individual was greatly misunderstood, at least by her dear, darling in-laws. 'She is safe in the hands of God. No one can hurt her now', remarked my mother, when she heard of Pankaj's death from Amineh Ispahane, an excellent friend, connoisseur and patron of fine arts in the city .

Pankaj was from Assam; her formative years were in a hill station school where she excelled in dramatics. She was known for her cheerful contagious laughter and her flamboyant ways. When a policeman tried to tell her off on the Dhaka highway when she had left her Russian ballet ticket at home, she bulldozed her way and told off the “cotton picking” traffic guy in uniform. She had the courage and daredevilry of a woman, which was both remarkable an unforgettable. She would speed to Uttara from Dhanmandi, making aeroplane-like turbulence just because I was addicted to air travel. She had such charm and finesse, that she could talk her way through the maneuverings of shopkeepers, whether in Dhaka or Karachi.

She adored her grandchildren and her daughters Ramiza and Nahia - whom I had the pleasure of knowing personally. Both the girls now live in the States - which was perhaps, Pankaj's second home. Most of her sons too are overseas and were well-liked by the Alliance Francaise students and teachers, especially Umar. Other Dhaka dwellers also approved of her sons. Like Pankaj herself, her children were full of bonhomie and camaraderie. Her grandchildren, naturally, were the apples of her eyes. The little angels, or 'devils in disguise' often called from the States and begged her to come as soon as possible and probable. Their voices, which I often heard, as I spent numerous nights at Uttara, were like the chirping of fledgling birds.

My friend could play the guitar with remarkable expertise. Music, for most listeners like myself, after the workplace routine, was a healing balm for the mind. She knitted innumerable jackets and mittens for her little visitors from overseas.

I am accustomed to being spoiled by girl pals but I've never know anyone to smother one with care and tenderness as this buddy of mine did (except for my other best buddies Rowshan and Rehana, whom I've known for donkey's ages). She brought me in-vogue shoes, Kashmiri kurtas, and even paper cuttings by the dozen covering the US political scenario. When I lay beside her at nights, after watching TV, she always checked with her palms to make sure that I was warm enough in her air-conditioned boudoir.

Overseas US concepts had not confused her basic Muslim upbringing. She prayed on the prayer rug and said her “worry beads” as we, giggling girls called it, a quarter of a century back. She read verses from the Koran. Her bookshelf and bedroom were home to innumerable novels and books on literature. She was a bookworm, like most of my friends and relatives. Books, magazines and the morning newspapers were her pals. The programmes she and I watched on the “idiot box” were serious ones like the one on Prince Charles, or a series on the Tudor Age. Otherwise it was always the BBC news channel or National Geographic. She hardly watched anything on HBO or even the family- oriented Aussie one, which most love. Soap operas were a no-no for her.

This does not come to say that she was not into fun and frolic. Pankaj often regaled me with her recollections of school-days pranks, sitting in “”Escape from Shanghai” in Dhanmondi. We had hours of laughter sitting in Café Veranda, at the Alliance Francaise. She was popular with the crowd there. This included any one, from any age. She could make anyone smile their worries away. She was not only full of wise words with insight and she was not just a jester, she had her shoulder ever ready for her friends to cry, moan and groan on.

She knew endlessly about how to stand the slings and arrows. If anyone drove you bonkers with their rude remarks, she made you laugh at their silly observations, and made you laugh off their thoughtless remarks. She gave you practical and medical advice, even late into the night , on the phone. She was ever ready to accompany you anywhere, whether it be the New Market or out of the way five -star hotel cultural programmes, late in the evening.

Pankaj was sweet and understanding. What more could one have expected from a friend of many decades?

By Fayza Haq


About your cell

Your cell phone does not have to go everywhere you go. There are times when you should never answer your cell phone. Movie theatres, plays, and restaurants are no place for cell phones. Even more so, cell phones should be left in the car when you visit mosques and funeral homes. At the very best, they should be on the vibrate setting during these times. If for any reason you do receive a phone call in one of these places, do not answer the phone.

Discretely check the number to see who has called. If you think it may be an emergency, excuse yourself and return the call once you have stepped outside.



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