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Dhaka Tribune

‘Gallery on Wheels’: Cosmos Foundation felicitates rickshaw painters as medium enlisted as Uneso heritage

  • Local and foreign dignitaries and maestro rickshaw painters attended the event
  • Rickshaw first came in Dhaka city in around 1938
Update : 15 Dec 2023, 05:29 PM

Honoring a seasoned group of rickshaw painters in Dhaka whose works have made rickshaw and rickshaw paintings recognized as the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity earlier this month, Cosmos Foundation, through its artistic wing Gallery Cosmos, organized an event titled “Gallery on Wheels” at the Private Museum, Baridhara in the capital on Thursday.

Hosted by Enayetullah Khan, chairman of Cosmos Foundation, the event was joined by diplomats and officials from different embassies including the Ambassador of the Philippines to Bangladesh Leo Tito L Ausan Jr, President of the Cosmos Foundation Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, and elites of the diplomatic and international community, civil society, cultural and intellectual personalities attended the event.

Local and foreign dignitaries and maestro rickshaw painters including Mohammad Hanif Pappu, Syed Ahmed Hossain, Mohammad Soleman. SA Noor Ali and Md Monir Hossain were also present at the event.

“For this remarkable inclusion in the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, I convey my heartiest congratulations to the rickshaw painters and the Cosmos Foundation for hosting this event. This year, we hosted a unique event titled ‘Adorn-a-Rickshaw’ as part of our traditional Kalayaan (independence) parade in Dhaka, which was a tribute to the iconic vehicle of the country and also to showcase the richness and colors of our Filipino festivals,” the Philippines ambassador said at the event.

Mentioning the overwhelming response that the event received, and traditional festivals around the world such as the “Ati Atihan” festival in the Philippines, Ambassador Leo said that Bangladesh should also have a rickshaw-themed annual festival to celebrate this achievement.

Cosmos Foundation President Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said: “When we grew up, we have seen rickshaw with vibrant, meaningful paintings behind it – and always realized that there are significant artistic values behind these works. I would like to congratulate Enayetullah Khan and Cosmos for discerning this, and being able to bring it out and present in front of us tonight. This art will continue far beyond our lifespan, because rickshaw and its associated artwork is not so much the object or form of transport; it is the unique and yet unmistakable bond between Dhaka, its people and its rickshaws. It is the essence of that relationship, that is inherently never tangible that Unesco have recognized and we celebrate here today.”

Enayetullah Khan lauded the achievement at the ceremony, stating: “December is a month of victory for us, and this year we achieved another victory as our rickshaw painting got inscribed by Unesco as it designated the medium as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Through this recognition, the whole world came to know how creative, vibrant, and colorful this genre of art is.

“Rickshaw first came in Dhaka city in around 1938, and the vehicle was first introduced in Japan when they were going through an energy crisis. When I was a child riding a rickshaw, I used to look ahead and see the painting on the back of the moving rickshaws - often saw the advertisements of the movies, or a place of interest in the world, or the pictures of different animals and picturesque, scenic beauties, or sometimes, it’s just a quote of wisdom!”

Mentioning broader plans to promote rickshaw painting across the world, Khan said: “I have travelled to at least 80 countries in the world, but I have never seen a nation as creative as ours. Today, we notice numerous rickshaw painting motifs in our living spaces, closets, and so on. We want everyone in the world to know about our culture.

“That is why, we aim to organize an annual rickshaw painting festival to help raise the profile of the nation. For this, we will conduct comprehensive research through our Cosmos Foundation. We would like to conceptualize the findings through the publication of books, short documentaries and other creative works on rickshaw painting in the future. Through our Cosmos Foundation and its artistic wings like Gallery Cosmos, this is how we always promote Bangladesh.”

The artists showcased several of their rickshaw paintings, posters, and rickshaw painting-themed products, mesmerizing the guests through the representation of their majestic and vibrant artistic visions.

“Even though we were not less than stars in this genre when every film poster had to be custom-made with rickshaw paint motifs, we started losing our momentums with the advancement of digital media. There was a time when people even used to mock us because we started channelling art in different decorative mediums,” he added.

“The interesting fact is that even though our opportunities decreased with the incoming of digital media and devices, our art also transcended the borders and received this inscription from Unesco as a Cultural Heritage through the same digital mediums. If we get proper support from our government, we can take our rickshaw paintings to an unimaginable height,” master artist Mohammad Hanif Pappu said at the event, thanking Cosmos Foundation for hosting the ceremony.

The eighteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held at Cresta Mowana Resort in Kasane, Republic of Botswana from December 4 to 9, where Unesco inscribed rickshaws and rickshaw paintings in Dhaka, Bangladesh as intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

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