"We have been celebrating the life and all the majestic literary creations of our Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore, in so many places across the entire world. Tonight, probably for the first time ever - we are talking about Rabindranath in an abandoned leather workshop, inside of a tannery space!"
When eminent artist-cartoonist Rafiqun Nabi, popularly known as Ranabi, shared this statement towards a houseful of arts and literature admirers - the audiences could not catch their breaths out of laughter. However, everyone also nodded with pleasure that indeed the statement was true, and it was made possible by the togetherness celebrated at a time when Bangladesh was hosting the World Peace Conference - as part of its celebrations of the Mujib Year, the Birth Centenary of the Father of the Nation, and the Golden Jubilee of the country's independence. Celebrating the mesmerizing winter breeze in the golden hours of the departing Late Autumn, Brihatta Art Foundation initiated an exclusive art talk titled 'Rabindranath, in the land of Homer' by inviting a great group of scholars and enthusiasts, on the evening of December 6th.
It was an unusual Monday afternoon in the Late Autumn with heavy rainfall, however, that seemed and felt like a blessing in disguise - which added an extra flair to the rendezvous of some of the Bangladeshi pioneers, in the realm of art. Nurturing a unique vision to harmonize and coordinate with nature, artists and art, Brihatta grew up and now stands with pride and joy at its new shelter in Hazaribagh's 'Mukti-Tannery 1' in the city. Renovating the age-old, abandoned leather factory with the power of nature and its refreshing resources, Brihatta welcomed the coalescence between artistry and art lovers by hosting this exclusive talk. As Brihatta believes in the collective power of people and inclusivity from all spheres inside the society, it gathered a bunch of talented artistic individuals, professional and passionate artists on that evening - and making the occasion even more special, eminent art maestros around the world joined this event together, under the same roof - for the love of art.
From Greece, renowned and revered Indologist, Professor of Indian Languages at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Director at Athens Center for Indian and Indo-Hellenic Studies and Founder-President at Hellenic-Indian Society for Culture and Development (ELINEPA) Dr Dimitrios Vassiliadis, who came to Dhaka for attending the World Peace Conference, joined the art talk as its main guest. He was accompanied by the renowned Bangladeshi poet-author and diplomat Sujan Debnath, currently working at the Embassy of Bangladesh, Thimphu, Bhutan as Counsellor and the one to be credited for the title of the art talk, as it was named after his book 'Homer-er Deshe Rabindranath' (Rabindranath, in the Land of Homer) - which he wrote from his first-hand experience as a cultural attaché at the Embassy of Bangladesh in Athens.
Sujan Debnath's love for ancient Greek culture prompted him to choose Greece as his place of work, and after evaluating the timeline of Rabindranath, he wrote the first-ever book in Bengali featuring Rabindranath Tagore's short yet meaningful journey to Athens in 1926. The story of the Noble laureate's journey based on the study of the Greek periodicals of the time, the interactions of the Greek poets with the poet, and the way the poet viewed Greece, Homer, Plato, Socrates and other ancient Greek poets - all these things Sujan Debnath has brought under this one book.
"In 1926, Rabindranath Tagore travelled to several European countries for six consecutive months, and that trip was both successful and somewhat controversial. Thousands of people gathered in every European city to catch a glimpse of the iconic Bengali polymath, while he was also criticized by some, for receiving Italy's fascist leader Mussolini's hospitality. Rabindranath later regretted that the details of this thrilling rare trip were nowhere to be found as it was not documented, which eventually thrived me to write this book," Sujan Debnath shared his journey behind the publication.
Professor Dr Dimitrios Vassiliadis who is also the translator and editor of the "Unfinished Memoirs" by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the Greek language, lauded Sujan Debnath's literary works on Rabindranath and his Greek expeditions, as well as Brihatta's unique approach to rejuvenate the abandoned tannery and turning it into a state-of-the-art infrastructure for artistic ventures. He was greeted by Brihatta's little angel Borisho Dhora with flowers at the event, and the Professor shared his amusement by saying, "I am really honoured to participate not only in the World Peace Conference but also this wonderful evening with all of you, in this unique place. As Rabindranath said that we must all contribute to the promotion of the culture of our countries, I think Sujan Debnath did a commendable job by interconnecting both Greek and Bengali literature from his own experience and research during his time in Greece." He then handed over one of his books on Rabindranath Tagore as a souvenir to Brihatta's co-founders, Bishwajit Goswami and Nusrat Mahmud.
Eminent and legendary artists including Swapan Chowdhury, Kanak Chanpa Chakma, 'Shilpacharya' Zainul Abedin's youngest son Engineer Mainul Abedin, renowned art critic Moinuddin Khaled, and many other respected artists joined the art talk, alongside prominent media personalities including renowned journalist and ATN News Chief Executive Editor Munni Saha, popular actress Tanvin Sweety, Executive Artistic Director of Gallery Cosmos Sourav Chowdhury, Brihatta's Trustee members artist Tania Sultana Bristy and China's Yunan Arts University Lecturer artist Mong Mong Sho, among others.
"Bangladesh is a riverine country, and the creative artistic notions of our artists, poets and writers are also like rivers - tranquil, yet spontaneous and limitless. From the beginning, Brihatta's intention was to observe and interconnect those creative notions. Today we celebrated the untold Greek journey of Rabindranath in this unique place, as our beloved Nabi sir (Rafiqun Nabi) said earlier, who himself has also explored Greece in his life - and we are honoured to welcome Professor Dr Dimitrios Vassiliadis, who obtained his PhD in Philosophy and Religion at Banaras Hindu University and intensively worked on the life and works of our Rabindranath Tagore. Through creative interactions like this, we expect to interconnect all the existing streams of our collective consciousness, to ensure the much-needed inclusiveness in the society," Bishwajit Goswami, founder of the Brihatta Art Foundation and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Fine Art, Dhaka University, explained the motif behind hosting the art talk to Dhaka Courier.
Shama Rahman, one of the leading contemporary Tagore artists in the country, mesmerized the audience with her majestic presentation of Rabindra-Sangeet (Tagore Songs) while poet Aniket Rajesh enthralled the audiences with his recitations, and the jovial event was hosted by Oyshika Nodee.
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