Art for thoughts, inclusion and harmony

| Updated: February 16, 2023 20:20:08

Art for thoughts, inclusion and harmony

Mr Ali Ahmed was looking at one of the art pieces through his thick glasses when this writer approached him to talk about his experience at Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) 2023. The retired architect and a resident of Dhaka's Moghbazar area replied with one word, "Fantastic!"

"See the theme (subtitle) of this year's event," the elderly man then indulged in a little conversation, "It's 'Bonna' (flood), indicating many things like the women of our country, gender sensitivity, natural disaster, etc. I can relate the whole exhibition through this theme."

If you are wondering how he could relate the DAS with a flood, you need to look deeper into the concept of Bonna. Can flood be limited within the binary of good or bad? It destroys, at the same time, makes lands fertile, too; judging it with a good/evil binary is tough. Rather, the concept of Bonna shouts to our ears that every binary we see - men/women, productive/destructive - all have something in between.

The Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) is all about such thought-provoking art pieces that enable the viewers to make their own interpretations. It is an international, non-commercial art research and exhibition platform that focuses on South Asian art and architecture. It was founded by Samdani Art Foundation in 2012 and is hosted every two years at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. DAS 2023 is the sixth edition.

The Financial Express talked to several visitors to understand how they see the platform, what stirs their minds and why they visit it.

Is art a necessity or a luxury? People from different classes will answer differently. Zakia Sameen Noor, a student of Economics at Dhaka University, thinks the art summit is a necessary escape from busy schedules. On a more serious note, she said, "Culture is an important part of any society which reflects values and beliefs of the current generation." She believes that issues like climate change and injustice can be raised through art.

For Morium Kulsum, platforms like art summit bring together talented artists and let them showcase their creativity and unique perspectives. It is a bridge between artists and art lovers. However, this DU Marketing student sought more scopes to engage there, as she stated, "There could be some hands-on activities that would provide visitors with a more interactive experience."

Ms Nadia Islam, a private job holder from the Mohakhali area, loves to visit the art summit because it provides her with food for thought. The art interpretations, along with the artist's introduction showcased with each piece of art in this year's event, impressed her.

"Each piece of art is a combination of fragments of diverse thoughts. When we see them closely, they open doors in our minds, and each door takes us to a different world of thoughts," Nadia remarked.

Art is such a powerful medium that it can stir even the most innocent of minds. Adil Amin and Forhad Amin, two adorable twin brothers, came to visit the DAS with their father, Mr Ashraf Amin. When this scribe approached their father, the 7-year-old brothers enthusiastically took the mantle to describe 'how art should be interpreted.'

"See the pots decorated," Adil started describing a certain performance-activated art named 'They Who Brings Rain Brings Life' by Sumayya Vally--showcasing rain-making rituals, "Each of them contains one evil soul and those performing women captured them."

"No, the chief Ojha captured them, who is not here. After the summit ends, they will be released after rectification," corrected Forhad. The music that was played during the performance was the music of humanity that creates resonance in the souls of good people - this is how the Amin brothers interpreted the performance art.

Art is an expression of life and a visual depiction of how we see life from different points of view, thinks Ipshita Maliat Rahman, an Institute of Business Administration (IBA), DU student. Art adds value to life, sometimes, teaches us things. In that way, the art summit is a melting pot of thoughts and perspectives, each uniquely distinct, colliding, opposing or blending, ultimately adding sense.

However, Maliat talked about a glitch that could have been fixed to give the viewers a more engaging experience. Notwithstanding that there were volunteers who would interpret the art pieces for the viewers, she thinks arrangements for whole gallery tours or "Installing a few monitors that could give a tour through how the pieces have been arranged," could be helpful.

Sudipto Haider, a development professional, defined the art summit in perhaps the most sophisticated way. "Humming of the enthusiast crowd, patterns, colours, thought-provoking riddles, verses, and words - one can see the summit as a picturesque show or a wholesome composition formed by small pieces of thought-provoking elements. Accompanied by the rhetoric visuals, I saw a mild blend of the modern era," said the passionate art connoisseur.

The efforts and wisdom put into each art made him mesmerised, as he said, "Some pieces were so witty that I needed extra wit to comprehend." He also thinks that the summit could be more comprehensive in its communication approach to bring equity to the pleasure of consuming art. "In a world full of unbreathable cacophony, a show such as the art summit can help to trigger inclusion and harmony," his concluding remarks befittingly portray the spirit of the summit.

For a long time, Bangladesh needed a vibrant platform to express its culture and traditions, and DAS has emerged as the perfect trendsetter. People of all classes and ages can freely roam through the galleries of Shilpakala Academy -- full of colours, ideas and concepts. The theme of DAS 2023, Bonna, can also be interpreted as a symbol of breaking free. Like a flood can't be contained, viewers' thoughts can't be controlled as they flow freely, washing off everything en route like a strong flood does.

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