Jovial celebration of womanhood through the togetherness of adda, art and culture

World-famous Turkish novelist Elif Shafak once said that "Art and literature should help us to get out of our mental cocoons," and the abovementioned line which was taken from her 2012 interview with The Guardian, is the most perfect statement that has perfectly described the importance of art and literature in today's world. Throughout the years, women in Bangladesh have stepped up and took the charge of many significant sectors in society, especially in the realm of arts and culture; and brought global recognition and glory for Bangladesh which has been highly appreciated by the global citizens in this era of globalization, and it can be undoubtedly said that our women have truly earned the respect through their dedication, determination and dazzling confidence. Since its formal adaptation as a globally observed occasion by the United Nations in 1977, March 8 has been regarded as the celebratory occasion of the International Women's Day around the world by governments and different organisations, associations and individuals, and this year the UN theme for International Women's Day is "Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow" in order to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women around the world.

Honouring the influential roles that women of Bangladesh have been tirelessly playing throughout the years, the Turkish Embassy in Dhaka, in partnership with Bangladesh-Turkey Business Platform, organized an exceptional and unique event at the Garden of the Turkish Residence, Baridhara in the capital on Tuesday night. The event showcased a unique combination of an engaging conversation session facilitated by Dhaka Lit Fest director Sadaf Saaz, combined with a mesmerizing acoustic musical session by popular singer-musician and activist Farzana Wahid Shayan, a poetry recitation session by eminent actress-choreographer Naila Azad which was complemented with a dance recital by Umma Habiba and Yasin Arafat, and a unique art exhibition jointly organized with the Gallery Cosmos which was joined by seven leading Bangladeshi artists: Farida Zaman, Kanak Chanpa Chakma, Afrozaa Jamil Konka, Maqsuda Iqbal Nipa, Nazia Andaleeb Preema, Bishwajit Goswami and Sourav Chowdhury.

With the arrival of many influential guests from home and beyond, the event began with the conversation session, curated by Sadaf Saaz. From the newly appointed vice-chancellor of the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chattogram Dr Rubana Huq, to the first Bangladeshi film screened in the 'Un Certain Regard' section of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival 'Rehana Maryam Noor' - famed actress Azmeri Haque Badhan, and many other prominent personalities participated in the conversation, sharing their journeys while simultaneously shedding the spotlight on several important socio-economic issues.

Talking about the event with Dhaka Courier, Shayan said, "During the season of International Women's Day, I perform the songs of a series of mine which I call 'The songs of women, the songs of humanity' - and I love it. Being a singer, I find my inner peace when I can sing for a purpose. If any of my songs or any part of the lyrics or composition can touch and motivate any person for a positive change, I feel successful as I work with that desire in my mind. Tonight's event provides such kind of opportunities and a chance to celebrate the exchanging of meaningful experiences and ideas."

"For the love of cultural exchange through celebrating the achievement of women": Wearing an orange Punjabi as the colour symbolizes solidarity against gender-based violence, the Turkish Ambassador to Bangladesh Mustafa Osman Turan sat for an exclusive interview with Dhaka Courier at the event where he described the motif and the overall programme, marking this special occasion of International Women's Day 2022.

"We are organising this International Women's Day event at our Turkish Embassy as a part of our series of cultural events, which we call our year-long 'Cultural Encounters'. So we started last December with the 'Sufi Encounters,' which was a big success because we tried to highlight our shared value of Sufism. We started that here in the embassy, then we went to Sylhet, then Chittagong and then Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, so our artists who came from Turkey, collaborated with local artists."

"This time, we are celebrating International Women's Day - however, it is not the first time we are celebrating this event here at the Embassy. Two years ago when I first came, we also organised something similar and a cultural programme. This is the second time, and what we wanted to accomplish is that we want to highlight our women and also how they are playing important roles in our society - in both Turkey and Bangladesh. Because, in both of our countries, there are prominent women like the honourable Prime Minister, honourable Speaker of the National Parliament and we also have many women leaders in both government and the private sectors, artists, entrepreneurs and more. We wanted to celebrate their successes, and also to highlight some of the role models that we have in our countries," Turan described the initiative behind the event.

Moving on about the programme, he added, "We are also having an 'adda' - a conversation, curated by Sadaf Saaz Siddiqui, in conversation with musician and singer Shayan. She will also sing a few songs and share her viewpoints, as she is a renowned activist. We are also showcasing dance recitals, as well as an exclusive art exhibition curated by the Gallery Cosmos. We are doing this in partnership with the Bangladesh-Turkey Business Platform which we have established recently. There are nine Bangladeshi companies on our platform and six Turkish companies, and some of them are also present in this event like the Square group, Singer, Mohammadi Group, Deepto TV, Cosmos Group through the Gallery Cosmos and more. We are grateful for their support, and we will continue to organize similar events in the future to bring our countries closer."

Speaking on the partnership with Cosmos Group, the Ambassador said, "Cosmos Group is one of our nine partners in Bangladesh that are participating in our joint Bangladesh-Turkey business platform, and our message is that there are ample opportunities for trade and investments between Turkey and Bangladesh, and the more we know each other through this kind of cultural events and people-to-people contacts, the more business will flourish between our countries because that will help us understand what we can do together, on the basis of our shared history."

Expressing his admiration over the artworks and the artists participating in the exhibition, Turan said, "I am very impressed by the artworks being showcased in tonight's event. I have met some of the artists before in some exhibitions and art events in the past, and recently in the Garden Gallery of Gallery Cosmos in Baridhara, I saw some of their impressive artworks. So we brought some of the artists tonight to celebrate their arts on the theme of International Women's Day."

"We wanted to bring some of our Turkish artists for joining us this evening; unfortunately that was not possible as we are living the last days of Covid. When we first organized this event two years ago on this day (March 8, 2020), the first Covid positive case in Bangladesh was found today. We could not bring the Turkish artist this year, but InShaa Allah for our next events they will come. Tonight, one of our curators Naila Azad, will recite two poems penned by two of our Turkish poets. In the future, we are hopeful to facilitate further collaborations in our culture, academia and businesses between Turkish and Bangladeshi women," Mustafa Osman Turan concluded with high hopes for a pandemic-free future.

"Art, for the greater good": One of the highlighted parts of the event was the art exhibition, which was joined by seven prominent and renowned artists who envisioned and portrayed many significant aspects of womanhood through their artworks. Talking to DC, the participatory artists shared their individual experiences of participating in this unique togetherness of art and culture.

Kanak Chanpa Chakma: "Through celebrating the International Women's Day, I think the much-needed awareness is getting spread regarding women rights and the prevention of violence on our women, among the society and our citizens. Women from different professional sectors or academic areas can get interconnected and ensure the exchanging of great ideas at these types of events, so for that reason, I truly believe that the Turkish Embassy has set a praiseworthy example tonight."

Farida Zaman: "A number of people often just blatantly blame all the men in our society for the downfall of the social and economic development of our women, which is disheartening because men should be our collaborative companions, not the opponents. Here two of our esteemed male artists in the country, Bishwajit Goswami and Sourav Chowdhury are also participating in this exhibition, and I think this type of collaborative event can prevent the violence against women in our society - as well as ensure their deserving socio-economic progress."

Bishwajit Goswami: "The most interesting and enjoyable matter of tonight's event is that it brought so many things together at this wonderful place, through hosting and showcasing a unique blend of culture and art together - and we are getting enlightened with stories from many influential personalities at the same time. Through arts and culture, we can battle against the gender-based injustice and oppression in our society and I feel fortunate to participate in such a great exhibition with my teacher and other co-artists, courtesy to His Excellency and the Gallery Cosmos."

Maqsuda Iqbal Nipa: "As an artist, I believe that continuity is the most significant thing whether it is art or any other matter in our societal system. Although I feel honoured to be a part of this wonderful event, it does not matter to me whether it is a specific day to celebrate womanhood or not, as I believe that the continuity of love, celebration and art should always be maintained and flourished through our works. Through this type of collaborative events, I hope the celebration and learnings of this day will also be continued."

Nazia Andaleeb Preema: "March is a very special month when we celebrate women rigorously - because a woman is a discourse, that we celebrate every day; but the 8th of March, the International Women's Day is a very, very special day for every woman. Because women are the power, women are the mothers; women are the friends of this earth. So we should celebrate women in every aspect of our lives because without women the world is half. This year, we are celebrating women with non-biasedness, and that is why are having an exhibition with esteemed artists here in the Turkish Embassy. In my painting, I have celebrated portraying a Japanese woman who modelled for me one month in Japan. That is how women lend hands to each other and bridge friendship all over the world. Thanks to the Turkish Embassy and Gallery Cosmos for always organizing effective events on this occasion and making me a part of it."

Afrozaa Jamil Konka: "Celebrating this wonderful event organized by the Turkish Embassy and Gallery Cosmos, I feel honoured and delighted that the creative brilliance of our women is being recognized and celebrated. On this glorious occasion of International Women's Day, I would like to convey my greetings to all of our fighting women in the society and I appreciate these juvenile celebrations tonight."

Sourav Chowdhury: "Gallery Cosmos has always organized noteworthy events on different occasions including the International Women's Day, and this year we felt honoured when the Turkish Embassy stepped forward and collaborated with us to host this excellent event. Personally, I feel fortunate and very much happy, both as a participating artist and also an organizer. The role of women in our lives is beyond explanation as we come from our mother's wombs, and without the guidance and assistance of our women in almost every stage of our lives, we cannot have our existence; so I feel extremely honoured to be in this celebratory event of our esteemed women changemakers in the society."

Through the evening of valuable conversations coloured by music, recitation, dance and the art exhibition, the Turkish Embassy in Dhaka, in partnership with Bangladesh-Turkey Business Platform, has surely upheld the pride of International Women's Day 2022 and set an example of celebrating the influential role of women around the world, for the greater good.

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