Bishwajit Goswami’s curatorial marvel engages conversation with nature at Dhaka Art Summit 2023
The ongoing 6th Dhaka Art Summit is showcasing a rendezvous of renowned art critics and art collectors from home and abroad, with a vibrant panel of over 160 local and international artists and shedding the spotlight on topics such as climate change and gender relations at the National Art Gallery of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) in the capital. However, in Gallery 6, a particular exhibition has been the center of attraction since day one - combining 39 young and master artists, architects, photographers, researchers, and designers - all under the same roof. Envisioned to make city dwellers aware regarding climate change using sensory interactionism - sight, color, smell, sound, and touch - the soil of the venue narrates a beautiful, picturesque soliloquy through materials such as straw, jute, leather, rice husk and sand, creating an alluvium atmosphere of the delta. Co-produced by Brihatta Art Foundation and Samdani Art Foundation and curated by renowned artist-educator Bishwajit Goswami (Assistant Professor, Department of Drawing and Painting, University of Dhaka) with research support from Muhammad Nafisur Rahman (Assistant Professor of Communication Design at the School of Design, College of DAAP, University of Cincinnati), the unique artistic presentation is titled as 'Dyoidho' - a duality.
To think about Bangladesh is to think about the riverine, the deltaic landscape often evoking an idyllic imagining. To read about Bangladesh is to also read about floods and storms, and destruction designed by nature. To understand Bangladesh however, is to acknowledge the duality that flows through this land, its dwellers and its natural environment interacting in unfettered fluidity in various forms. In welcoming the new year, people in this wonderland sing an ode to invite the stormy northwestern (Kalboishakhi) to cleanse impurities and herald a fresh start. In embracing the destructive forces of nature, they accept the lessons it teaches, the reality of everyday struggles and the manifestation of the resilience of the Bengali spirit to hope for better days. The ambivalent relationship between man and the lived environment, people and nature, finds new modes of storytelling through these expressions. 'Dyoidho' upholds that relationship by showcasing the fluidity found in the riverine nature of Bengal. The exhibition engages the human senses through colour, form and essence.
Combining artistic research and practice, each section of the exhibition sheds light on a different aspect of duality in our everyday surroundings creating an immersive experience. Just as the waterways trace a path from the Himalayan springs to the estuaries of Padma, Meghna and Jamuna at the Bay of Bengal, the narrations traverse the artistic space following the way of the rivers. Sensory immersion is evoked both by the sound of paddy in the harvest festival and the dry-primitive aroma of hay, while the uneven gallery walls simulate the moist coarseness of the delta soil. The chaos during coastal calamity resonates in the exhibition's soundscape, as the seasonal qualities of Bangladesh's climate: the humid summer, the refreshing monsoon, and the dryness of winter all arouse effect, evoking emotion and memory. The dual manifestations of mother nature, nurturing and severe by turns, find new narrative forms where the beauty of the Sundarbans are juxtaposed against the insolent chimneys of bricks, coal and smoke; environmentalist movements are paired with creative performances eliciting thought-provoking contextual commentary on present-day reality. In the duality of light and darkness, the impure and grey forms of the destroyed environment are invoked, while hope shines at the edge of the horizon.
Dyoidho evokes the idea of artifice, where things are not as they seem and artists, architects, designers, photographers and researchers come together in collaboration to set the stage for this discourse. As the "Tokai" (The Collector) engages the "Bolod" (The Fool) in conversation, we extend an open invitation to participate in the discussion and to critique the apparent binaries of nature. Through texture, sound, smell, materiality, and colour, the exhibition is activated in the creative imaginary and transformed by the experience of the audience. The presentation of individual and collective experimental artworks seeks to raise critical questions, reveal answers, and create a dialogue between nature, the lived environment and our human connection to it - as per the organising team.
All 39 participating young and master artists-collaborators worked for 'Dyoidho' under six different categories - Estuary, Fluidity, The Land, Source, Indebtedness and Contradictions.
Welcoming to the untarnished estuary of land, air and water where the human relationship with nature is fluid and ever-changing, 'Dyoidho' immersed the audiences in the familiar and nostalgic sound of husking rice during the harvest season, while Rafiqun Nabi's popular character "Tokai" cheekily questions the nature of the existing urban beliefs. The scent of newly harvested dry hay underlines cultural nostalgia and agricultural heritage. This sentiment is strengthened through the depictions of the seasons in Ahmed Shamsuddoha's Summer, Jamal Ahmed's Monsoon, Alakesh Ghosh's Autumn, Anisuzzaman Anis's Late Autumn, Sheikh Afzal Hossain's Winter, and Kanak Chanpa Chakma's Spring - as they transform Hashem Khan's well-cherished memories of Bangladesh's six seasons opening up a new avenue of discourse. Emerging artist Damasush Hacha's animation adds a new dimension to this conversation, while Soma Surovi Jannat's video artwork reflects the diversity of stories found in the extensive water basin dialoguing in tandem with Abdul Gaffar Babu's unique floating site-specific installation.
Bengalis are easily drawn to the rippling rivers, developing an affection for the murky waters of riverine soil almost instantaneously. Both the abundance and scarcity of water define the daily livelihood, various feelings, or passions; this land of the evening 'Bhatiali' songs is a serene aquatic canvas as it moves along with the rivers. As a response to the rivers' temperament, Marina Tabassum's architectural model projects a silhouette of alternative hope that can overcome the shifting ebb and flow of the tide. Alak Roy's sculptural piece presents the interrelation between the sacrificial and redemptive dynamic between water and land, while Tarun Ghosh's artwork conveys imagery of the intuitive exploration of everyday domestic qualities. Summing up this duality inherent in both the people and the wetlands, Dhali Al Mamoon portrays a new relationship between a treasured memorable past and the strange aridity of the present.
Bengal's alluvial soil produces yearlong abundant harvests. Its nurturing quality is cherished by the artists who draw upon its wealth. Monirul Islam actively cultivates these tenets into his creative practice transforming commonplace daily objects into an expression of artistry that elevates and comments on the complexity of relationship with the organic world. Through its nurturing quality, Bengali art pays tribute to femininity creating a magical connection with nature's various manifestations. In her quest for her female self-identity, Nazlee Laila Mansur combines surrealism with reality. Through the fluid and rhythmic brushstrokes in Farida Zaman's Sufia, we glimpse a dreamlike world evoked by Mother Nature. The power and resilience of the feminine are exemplified in Dilara Begum Jolly's installations and in Rokeya Sultana's Madonna. Through Chandravati, Bengal's first female poet from Kishorgonj, Abdus Shakoor Shah pays tribute to the power of storytelling and "Parul"- the ever-familiar creation of master puppeteer Mustafa Monwar-joins this conversation in earnest. In understanding the tenderness of nature and the feelings of nurturing, Joydeb Roaza helps us visualize the tender roots of the sounds and feelings through his performance Fluid Roots.
Originating from the Himalayan Gangotri Glacier, the ancient Ganges exist to purify. The ever-familiar Padma, Meghna, and Jamuna rivers have changed the shape of this delta, saturating the earth with loam, alluvium and life. However, the ungrateful urbanites repay that generosity by disposing of waste into Buriganga. Mohammad Eunus's Metaphor of a Wounded River paints that final heartbeat as nature gives in to the relentless urban settlement. Through the mix of industrial and organic materials, Mahmuda Siddika's leather collage comments on the extinction of the Buriganga. Mojahid Musa's sculpture embodies the unusual and phantasmagorical form of the obscure darkness and fearful uncertainty of the future which is juxtaposed by Soma Surovi Jannat's mural work where light heralds a new hope and a new resolution for the future. In the duality of light and darkness, people confront the contaminated and polluted reality of the existing present while holding hope for the future. Through their solo performances playing with colour, touch, and fragrance, Yasmin Jahan Nupur and Niloofar Chaman manifest the duality of both the lamentation and promise of the existing human condition.
The Sundarbans, surrounded by loam, are a symbol of the deep trust in the preservation of the balance and diversity of environment. Anisuzzaman Faroque's installation represents the steadfast mangroves that defy the constant torrential tides, clinging to the southern border of the delta. They protect decade after decade from the catastrophic side of nature unconditionally without any expectation or compensation. Shahid Kabir expresses this coexistence between the forests with the local inhabitants and Mostafizul Haque's series Golpata depicts the evolution of this huge terrain. Hamiduzzaman Khan's mural portrays a confluence of the duality of fresh and saltwater under the vast sky of the extensive Sundarbans. Meanwhile, Abul Barq Alvi provides us with a bird's eye view of the brick kilns with fumes that engulf the surrounding landscape, and Nisar Hossain's painting Towards Annihilation reinforces the idiosyncratic emotions that man contains and performs against nature.
Bengalis remain optimistic even when faced with great adversity. The wrath of nature claims our homes and assets repeatedly along with priceless memories made over a lifetime. Recognising the silent desperate lament of the climate refugees, Abir Abdullah's photo series documents their plight in an effort to discover the potent source of hope that propels them onward. The chaos brought on by the changeable and temperamental rivers permeates the lives of everyone and the nostalgic backdrop of Ahmed Rasel's visual storytelling holds up the constant fear of the devastation brought on by the ever-eroding river. This duality inherent in the natural human habitat is reinforced both through the fictitious world found in Ashrafia Adib's virtual reality piece and Khairul Alam Shada's cinematic portrayal of our natural surroundings. These contradictory perspectives are explored through Mohammed Emran Hossain's architectural installation of the periscope which refracts, reflects and reframes various angles symbolically empowering each to create a dramatic synthesis of people's own perspectives of self-realization, intuition, and worldview.
Dhaka Art Summit is concluding this Saturday, February 11 - with a promise to return along with future ventures like 'Dyoidho', for the sake of the everlasting duality within.
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