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The chronicles of Clay & Life

“Then the Word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
-Jeremiah 18:5,6

God is the potter and we are the clay. If you're familiar with the process of shaping and finishing a pottery vase made on a potter's wheel, you know that lump of clay "goes through a lot of changes" before it becomes a beautiful work of art. And just like that history of modern society went through thousands of ups and downs before we came to this twenty-first century.

One of the most fascinating yet mysterious cultures of the ancient world is the Harappan civilization. This culture existed along the Indus River in present day. Only part of their language has been deciphered today, leaving numerous questions about this civilization unanswered. But still today the living monuments of this ancient society are there ancient pottery pieces, which tell us a lot about the life of the people. Similarly Bangladesh has got thousand of years of rich heritage in clay sculpture and traditional pottery. But with the flow of industrialization these precious elements of our culture are on the verge of extinction.

Now let us tell you another story of HARAPPA. It all began back in 2006 when a couple of soul-searching friends took an oath to save the traditional pottery industry of this country from being almost extinct. Over last three years HARAPPA had to face many challenges, which they successfully overcame by the power of their passion, hard work and sincerity. And the testament of their hard work was recently exhibited in the Gallery of Drik. The exhibition was titled “Clay & Life by Harappa”, the second endeavour of HARAPPA, ran from December 11 till December 19.

A vast array of styles, technique, colours and texture are shown with in the simplest domestic objects from functional tableware, fountains, and masks to purely aesthetic elements. With different shades and lighting all the pieces came to life and told their own stories. Some provoked humours, some provoked some lost memories or just imagination that has no boundaries of their own. One corner of the exhibition is dedicated to the replicas to the name of that ancient society, Harappa, that is one of the greatest inspirations of this organisation.

The adjacent work depicts Nandi, the sacred Bull of Veddic myth, carrier of the destructive Shiva. Similar to the “Bull of Heaven” in Mesopotamian mythology, the Nandi Bull is the gatekeeper of Shiva's heavenly palace. But the art works are just not only limited with in the arena of south east Asia's cultural heritage but also depicts Egyptian and ancient Red Indian culture through sculpture of Anubis, jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in Egyptian mythology and some magnificently decorated sculpture of Red Indians.

Mrs. Jaman a visitor of the exhibition expressed her thoughts about the event by these words-“This is amazing. I had no idea that pottery can be so magnanimously elegant. This is a very good effort by HARAPPA. They are doing a very good work by reviving our traditional art and improvising their own style to elevate this art to another dimension.”

The mission of HARAPPA is to train the traditional potters, equip them with modern technology and make them more market focused so that they can help themselves and also help their ancestral tradition to survive through the harsh reality of this mechanised society. So, interested about some clay pottery?!? Just log on to their website http://harappaceramics.com/ .

By Zabir Hasan

Victory day celebrations at Muktijudhdho Jadughor

The first floor balcony of the Liberation War museum at Shegunbagicha displayed a huge board that contained names and descriptions of the seven Beersreshtho and their comrade sector commanders. A father stood before the board, reading its contents aloud while his children gathered around him and listened in silence. Finally, one of them whispered in an awed tone, “ALL these brave people died for our country?”

“Yes, son,” the father replied proudly. “Them and many, many more.”

16th December 2009 was the last day of Muktijudhdho Jadughor's week-long “From Human Rights Day to Victory Day” festival. The celebrations focused on a lively cultural function arranged in the museum premises where schoolchildren participated in singing, dancing and acting segments. The participants were from Mother Care Preparatory School, Muktokontho Abrittee Academy, Dhrupodo Kola Kendro, EUCEP School and Shurer Dhara. The day-long function also included an afternoon session with 'Kissa' performances by Almas Boyati and his team from Kishoregonj and Kotha Abritte Chorcha Kendro, Shoroshruti, Shongbreeta etc. organisations with their separate performances.

The cherry on the cake, to the children's delight, was the museum authority's decision to grant free entrance (museum tour) for that one day. The Liberation War museum is basically an old two-storey building with narrow rooms. That didn't diminish the children's interest and they were seen walking around the aisles clutching their parents' hands, silent and wide-eyed. The sombre mood of the place even touched the children. This writer spotted one particular kid who was staring at a photograph of corpses being devoured by vultures and foxes. When asked what he thought of it he said, “This is so scary. I want to know why something like this happened in our country. I don't want anything like this to ever happen again.”

Museum Trustee Sarwar Ali said, “It's only a matter of years. After that, many freedom fighters won't be alive to tell the true stories of the war. But our history must not be lost. The new generation has to know the truth so that they can finish what we had started. They must preserve this history at all costs. These festivals are but a part of our efforts in inspiring them for that very cause.” Another trustee Akku Chowdhury said, “We fought a war to save this country from enemies. But our present generation has many more wars to fight. Be it against poverty or illiteracy, we will surely be victorious here too.”

It's sad how we forget certain things when we are not reminded of them. In that sense one cannot really blame someone from this generation even if s/he scoffs, “So what? War happened, big deal. Why all this fuss about it now?” Cosy in the present day surroundings, s/he couldn't possibly know what the December was like only 38 years ago. Yes, the logic is understandable. But then again, some things cannot be forgotten just like that. Genocides are hardly doll-house dramas.

And even if one were to think there's not enough ways of knowing about what kind of a hell this country had been through only a few thirty years back, it's a duty upon ourselves to try and receive that education and enlighten our souls. The martyrs deserve at least that much of our effort. And of course, there are always programmes like the aforementioned to help us.

By Raisa Rafique

Independence day- giving back to the community

The year was 1971. Thousands of the country's youth had gathered around different areas of then East Pakistan with one vision in their mind- to free their motherland. After nine months of painful birth pangs and uncountable casualties, Bangladesh was born on the 16th of December 1971.

Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC), is an organization with a vision to create a poverty-free Bangladesh driven by the next generation of home-grown leaders. It is currently holding a month long training program named Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT) which aims to bridge gaps in society by uniting the youth from diverse backgrounds, equipping them with leadership, problem solving and teamwork skills, and engaging them in community service and active citizenship. By putting trainees out of their comfort zone and into the real world, BBLT aims to help them solve real world problems and perform tasks to achieve a particular goal.

To celebrate the birth of our nation, BYLC's students and facilitators planned to spend the day with the kids from Korail Slum in the city's Gulshan area. The fact that one should give back to their community and country on this day came naturally to all the participants of the program and, on the morning of the 16th of December, 40 students and 6 facilitators including BYLC's founder Ejaj Ahmad headed towards Korail. The events motto was, “Torunder netritte amra bijoyer gaan gai.”

After entering the slum, the 40 students were divided into five groups, and each of them were in charge of entertaining one classroom full of children ranging from Class I to Class V. Over 150 school children participated in the program. Even though the classrooms were quite small, the children had taken the time to decorate it beautifully! During the introduction session, the children shared their hopes and ambitions in life, ranging from wanting to be a doctor to aspiring to be an actor. With the generous donations of colours and stationeries from Lyra, the children had an art competition where their true creativity emerged. Each and every one of the artworks was excellent! Through the course of the morning, various activities such as finger painting, origami, story telling, pillow passing, etc, kept the whole group busy and excited.

Through each story, folds of origami, songs and talks, the BYLC group and the children bonded closely. The children in Korail have such big dreams and are so optimistic that even the strongest of hearts are moved. The amount of love that these children showed in such a small amount of time truly left everyone humbled. In today's world where there are children who can only be satisfied with a Nintendo Wii or an iPod Nano, it is truly heart warming to see that such a small actions could make so many children happy.

It's just sad that these children only have the chance to study till class V after which the school is not able to teach the children. Most of them end up working by the age of 13 when they face reality instead of chasing their dreams. After this experience, it is hard to overlook the fact that the futures of these children are nothing short of depressing. Though the city keeps growing, we forget to nurture the most important part of it the youth. So while on your way to work, listening to music on you mp3 player or playing with your PS2, take a moment to think about the thousands of deprived children of Dhaka and what you, as privileged citizen of Bangladesh can do to turn the dreams of the underprivileged children into a brilliant reality.

By Sumaiya T Ahmed





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