Works of art that defend the cultural identity of Bangladesh

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The Arts Program of Bengal has launched the “Sanghatir Samayalap” exhibition, showcasing the phenomenal artworks of legendary artists who have helped shape the cultural and political context of this country. The exhibition was opened at Quamrul Hassan Exhibition Hall, Bengal Shilpalay on August 3, 2022.

After the 1947 partition, our nation, then East Pakistan, experienced a cultural awakening in the 1950s and 1960s. The search for nationalism, internationalism and identity has pushed people towards intellectual practices. Artists have joined the common mass in the battle for freedom in their own way. After the 1971 liberation, Bangladesh was born, and along with political revival, the 1980s and 1990s brought even greater advancements in the humanities.

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To shake off the exhaustion caused by decades of colonization, intellectuals and patrons of cultural movements came together to reconstruct lost identity through art on two-dimensional surfaces. Their subjects portrayed n

nature, traditions, lifestyles, social and political issues, and even various states of mind. They worked with oil paints, watercolors, acrylic paints, ink pens, pastels, sculpting tools, on canvas, papers and cardboards, and started a new era of art and culture.

The Bengal Gallery is filled with overwhelming aesthetic vibes emanating from the paintings. As soon as I entered Safiuddin Ahmed’s “On the Way to the Fair” (woodcut, 1947), full of intricate detail of a rural caravan greeted me. Murtaja Baseer’s oil work Rossa 3 is the first large abstract painting that caught my eye. Hashem Khan’s oil on canvas shows our treasures, fish and rivers with the villagers. The serene hilly landscape of Mustafa Monwar is very soothing to the eyes. Shilpacharja Zainul Abedin’s twin ink wash portraits on paper (1963) hang alone in all their splendour.

Nitun Kundu’s “Image of Festival” (1999) is a wonderful blend of 2D geometric shapes and a plethora of colors. “Alluvial Reality 15” by Kalidas Karmakar, ink on paper has three portraits wrapped vertically through intriguing line art. The huge charcoal-drawn figures representing mourning belong to Rafiqun Nabi. Jamal Ahmed’s ethereal acrylic painting “Lonely” shows a bird without its flock. “Memories of 1971” by Ahmed Shamsuddoha is a sad image of an empty field, an almost bald tree and a soldier’s helmet on the ground. Above this piece is a heartbreaking painting of orphaned and starving children by Sheikh Afzal.

Made in the 1970s, SM Sultan’s oil painting on panel shows a woman breastfeeding her child, surrounded by hundreds of people. Shahabuddin Ahmed’s oil on canvas is semi-abstract portraits of Bangabandhu and Maulana Bhashani. Nasreen Begum’s acrylic painting is a blue silhouette of a woman, adorned with ocean treasures. Vibrant rustic orange abstract artwork belongs to Farida Zaman. Kanak Chanpa Chakma’s masterpiece “Biju Festival” appeared otherworldly to my eyes.

The whole gallery is like a sea of ​​culture and history where one can take home an abundance of lessons about art and artists. The exhibition open to all is taking place at the Bengal Gallery until September 3, 2022.

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