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Dhaka Tribune

The Gardener's Dream promotes an inclusive society

The oddly shaped painting of three interlocked rectangles depicts a nonbinary gardener surrounded by lush plants, creatures, and humans alike

Update : 05 Feb 2023, 10:04 PM

At the Dhaka Art Summit's 6th edition, on the second floor of Shilpakala Academy's National Art Gallery, Rasel Rana's The Gardener's Dream is featured in the Samdani Art Awards show. This oddly shaped painting of three interlocked rectangles depicts a nonbinary gardener surrounded by lush plants, creatures, and humans alike. This dream canvas shows how society's marginalized people could all live in harmony — if only the world were more accepting. 

As a metaphor for diversity, the Rana used an irregular canvas shape instead of the run-of-the-mill square or rectangle. "I stand for diversity, and I wanted my canvas to emulate that diversity," Rana says. 

At the painting's center we see a gardener who identifies as nonbinary, dreaming of inclusivity and a free life. The gramophone emerging from the gardener's vocal cords symbolizes their attempt to be heard by the peacock at their side. The peacock represents our society as it is: "Beautiful to look at on the outside, aggressive on the inside,” in Rana's words. The gardener's interaction with the peacock symbolizes the struggle to navigate the peacock's aggressive side. Rana says, "Our planet is much like a garden.”

On the far left of this three-part painting is a depiction of society's treatment of paedophilia. Molested children are sprayed down in a bath to cleanse them, so that society does not have to confront the filthiness of the abuse suffered by these innocents. This image mirrors our tendency to victim blame, whether children or women. "It's the same as when we think women are unclean or to be blamed if they are raped," Rana says. 

Adam and Eve are shown on the far right, under the forbidden tree, but both Adam and Eve are depicted as male. Rana emphasizes that Eve is still Eve, no matter the anatomy. No one has eaten the forbidden apple in the painting, and their names and identities remain the same, even if both are male. 

A wooden bench, made by Rana, faces the painting. It symbolizes the genesis of the painting, as its concept sprang in Rana's mind while sitting in contemplation alone on a garden bench. Visitors' comments and feedback are pasted across the bench on post-it notes to express their various experiences of the work. 

All three parts of the canvas depict a form of inclusivity and diversity that seem to be missing from today's world and society. The painting asks viewers to consider how we react to minorities, making them feel like outcasts. It imagines a world in which everyone has a voice and is able to live in harmony and without judgement.

The painting's inspiration comes from Rana's personal life and lived experience of societal oppression. Rana's hopes the message of inclusivity and openness stays with visitors, and is overwhelmingly pleased with the response so far received.

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