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Dhaka Tribune

‘Duality’ captures Bangladeshi’s optimism in the face of adversity

Shahirah Majumdar talked to Bishwajit Goswami about the show 

Update : 09 Feb 2023, 11:59 PM

Bonna, the theme of Dhaka Art Summit 2023, comes fully alive on the third-floor of the National Art Gallery where Bishwajit Goswami's show Duality unfolds in carpets of hay and paddy husk, walls festooned with cow patties, rivers of leather scraps symbolizing the tears of the Buriganga… Iron spikes rise like Sundarban's mangrove roots from a bed of sand, and a small, paddy-laden boat sits abandoned before haunting silvery photos of watery landscapes. Curated by Goswami with research support from Muhammad Nafisur Rahman, and co-produced by Brihatta Art Foundation and Samdani Art Foundation, Duality pays homage to the great, aching well of beauty and resilience cradled within the relentless natural forces of the Gangetic delta. 

Shahirah Majumdar talked to Bishwajit Goswami about the show.

What is your vision for the show?

As human beings, we are living in duality. It's in our way of surviving, of relating — or even countering — people, our surroundings, nature, many kinds of objects.  If you see Bangladesh, from the bird's eye view, the whole land is knitted with many rivers. Sometimes very calm. Sometimes very ferocious.  The theme of Dhaka Art Summit this year is Bonna, which means ‘flood.' But it's also a girl's name. So that is the duality. From bonna, we suffer a lot, but we receive new soil for cultivation. 

It's important also how the river is creating connection. One river to another river to another river, sometimes touching the ocean… In the same way, this exhibition is only possible because we are a whole team, working in a collective way with the participation of each artist.


A lot of people are coming from abroad: Artists, galleries, curators… And they get confused thinking that Dhaka City is the real Bangladesh. So we wanted to give an introduction, celebrating our six seasons and collecting our resources. So whole process is a journey, in six segments, with the visual narration executed from different angles: here is the architect, photographer, painter, new media artist…  And the whole exhibition is connected with our hope.

What was the role of research in this show?

So we first try to figure out what sorts of images we want for the show. Then we start collecting the ideas – what kinds of artists and artworks — because the whole thing depends on the 39 other artists.* I believe in collectiveness. I am not able to do everything. Muhammad Nafisur Rahman is our key researcher. He is an arts educator at Cincinnati University, so he has that experience. But it's not only text-based research. I connect with those people who have the real connectivity: they touch, smell, feel. We have real farmers from Kishoreganj who know how to use straw, who know how to touch paddy. My team is also learning from them as artists.

The most important thing is that, when people are inside the gallery, they get that experience: they can smell the smell, they can touch the walls. Every segment will use different kinds of materials like sticks, jute, leaves from the Sundarbans… 

What do you want people to take away from the show?

They need hope. We should visit our Bangladesh, listen to the aged people talk... If we really want to see my Bangladesh, we need to go to our rivers, lay down on mud, play with farmers, see the cultivation… This is the normal thing. It can also inspire us, bringing a lot of positive things to the mind and body, transforming our creative journeys.


To learn more about the exhibit, you can attend Bishwajit Goswami's talk Duality of the Delta at 5.30 pm, Friday, 10 February at the third-floor auditorium.

*39 artists of Duality include Abdul Guffar Babu, Abdus Shakoor Shah, Abir Abdullah, Syed Abul Barq Alvi, Ahmed Rasel, Ahmed Shamsuddoha, Alak Roy, Alakesh Ghosh, Anisuzzaman Anis, Anisuzzaman Faroque, Ashrafia Adib, Damasush Hacha, Dhali Al Mamoon, Hilary Begum Jolly, Farida Zaman, Hamiduzzaman Khan, Hashem Khan, Jamal Khan, Jamal Ahmed, Joydeb Roaja, Kanak Chanpa Chakma, Mahmuda Siddika, Marina Tabassum, Md. Khairul Alam (Shada), Mohammed Eunus, Mohammed Emran Hossain, Mojahir Musa, Monirul Islam, Mostafiz Haque, Mustafa Monwar, Nazlee Laila Mansur, Niloofar Chaman, Nisar Hossain, Rafiqun Nabi, Rokeya Sultana, Shahid Kabir, Sheikh Afzal Hossain, Soma Surovi Jannat, Tarun Ghosh, Yasmin Jahan Nupur

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