Rohingyas' desire to return to their homeland showcased in paintings

Tanmoy has joined hands with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partner Artolution to support Rohingya refugees through art

 "In almost every picture of them, the longing to return to their own country has emerged. They want to get rid of the curse of child marriage, the dream of returning to their country with their families, studies, etc."

Cartoonist Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy recounted his experience of creating a 170-feet-long painting of hundreds of refugees sheltering in Bhasan Char at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Gulshan 2 on Wednesday evening.

He said: “Khaleda Akhter, a Rohingya woman, questioned me when I went to the village to ask permission to paint. She asked ‘Can we go back to our country with that?.' In each image of the mural, they posed a zillion questions.”

Tanmoy has joined hands with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partner Artolution to support Rohingya refugees through art. 

Tanmoy gathered the refugee community to share their lives and capture them on a large joint mural on the island of Bhasan Char. 

Dhaka Tribune

In the seven-day program, Rohingya refugees shared their needs, hardships, hopes, and dreams and captured them in a collection of wall paintings.

“Imagine a group of children who have never held a brush in their life. Now imagine that they come together to paint a 170 feet long painting!” said Tanmoy in a delighted voice. 

“The Rohingya refugees created a beautiful mural which can help them tell their stories, express their identities and work towards inner peace,” he added.

Since October 2021, UNHCR and humanitarian partners have been delivering essential services and critical humanitarian assistance on Bhasan Char. Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Bangladesh, they are setting up the framework of cooperation with the government on the island. 

Currently, there are over 27,000 Rohingya refugees registered on the island. Of them, 80% are women and children. Immediate needs have been identified and are being addressed, including health, protection, nutrition, and water and sanitation.

“The project led by Artolution, and our partner Terre des Hommes seeks to provide refugees with an opportunity to heal through art. The refugees have gone through many hardships and painting allows them to reflect and find inner peace,” said Johannes van der Klaauw, representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  (UNCR).

Cartoonist Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy Dhaka Tribune

“For me, it was amazing to see Tanmoy paint together with the refugees. Tears and joy were shared and reminded us that regardless of our differences, we share the same human emotions. Art has the power to heal the soul,” added Johannes van der Klaauw.

Artolution, a community-based public art education organization, has been creating social change through collaborative art with UNHCR in Bangladesh in 17 Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar and with Bangladeshis living in the area. 

Through art, children and families foster their cultural values, promote resilience, and capture their identity, the trauma of the past, the challenges of the present, and the hopes and aspirations for the future.

UNHCR and the UN agencies in Bangladesh continue work on Bhasan Char to complement the government's effort to provide protection and assistance to relocated refugees.