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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh’s most buzzed about art festival ends

Six highlights of DAS 2023


Update : 11 Feb 2023, 10:40 PM

On the final weekend of the Dhaka Art Summit 2023, Shilpakala Academy was standing room only. Art enthusiasts queued in long lines to enter the venue, the  thronged elbow-to-elbow in the jampacked galleries. DAS's 106 art mediators could barely pause for breath between explanations of the artwork. Dhakaites in party-wear posed for selfies around every corner, and a buzzing, festival atmosphere pervaded the air.

Over nine jampacked days, over half a million eager visitors attended a carefully curated schedule of performances, screenings, and talks, enjoyed exuberant and thought-provoking art experiences, and participated in the creation of all-around good vibes. 

Shahirah Majumdar spoke to six of them for DAS 2023's highlights.

Space for child's play

“I grew up watching Meena cartoons and Thakumar Jhuli (a collection of Bengali folk and fairytales), and those things are here (Very Small Feeling gallery). I'm here watching these things coming alive again, and that amazed me because I got to experience my childhood again… I'm a 12th grade student, so I don't get to sketch much anymore. But it used to be my hobby. Seeing other people's artwork here inspired me to start my own again. 

-       Raisa, 12th grade student

Unheard, untold stories

“I was really impressed by the curation. A lot of unheard voices that we don't always hear about in mainstream storytelling were included: indigenous, trans, refugees… It shows you that there is a really important place for art in expressing these untold, unheard stories. For example, the piece “Submerged Dream 8” (by Joydeb Roaja, ground floor entrance). I learned a piece of history about indigenous land that had been submerged that I had not known. That was eye-opening in a way that even text-on-paper might not be able to express. I realized the events experienced by the Chakma people on their land was a catastrophic, larger-than-life event that affected a whole community. I found that very moving.”

—    Samirah, research analyst

Inspired for environmental action

“We are a group of self-taught, amateur artists, and we have an Arts Club at our college. We come to different exhibitions for our own skills development and to get inspired. At the art summit, there are themes that are beautifully expressed through the work, which is different than other exhibitions. For example, climate change is a key theme here. I feel that, to address environmental pollution from the root, we need to think about recycling. So we are inspired to do an exhibition on recycling art next month at our college.”

—    Rafa, college student 

The joy of interactive art

“I loved putting on the headphones to listen the Meena cartoon. When I entered the anthill (Where Do the Ants Go? in the South Plaza), I was reminded of the game Minecraft. I also loved the computer game in the large room where there were a lot of storybooks for us to read (Nobody Knows for Certain in Very Small Feelings gallery). I also liked some of the pictures.”

—    Rimisha, 8-years-old student 

That taste of Bangladeshi village life

“What I loved the most is that, after many years, I had a taste of our village which I haven't had since childhood. I felt like, let's go back to those days!”

—    Nasima, teacher

Art is for everybody

“There was something for everybody to enjoy. The zones where the village life, the hill life, the tribal life were expressed through images and installations were appealing for all, regardless of education. There was even a beautiful zone for kids to play. It was an enchanting experience. It made me feel that art is for everybody, no matter their age or profession. Art is a part of life. It expresses our life stories, and everyone should have space for it.

—    Shahabuddin, business owner

“Because there was free admission, people from all walks of life could attend. It's one of those rare opportunities in Dhaka life to interact with people from different strata in society. And maybe that's why it seemed like there was a buzzing kind of energy there.”

—    Samirah, research analyst

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