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Dhaka Tribune

Dhaka Art Summit offers a fun and educational space for kids

School trips to the Dhaka Art Summit have been a great success

Update : 09 Mar 2024, 07:33 PM

When asked, “What is art?” one student said eloquently: “Art is whatever it invokes within the audience. It's about the emotions and thoughts emerging from the experience of the art.”

Her words capture the sentiments of Very Small Feelings, an exhibit on the first floor of the Dhaka Art Summit 2023. Co-curated by Samdani Art Foundation artistic director Diana Campbell and Akansha Rastagi of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, with curator Ruxmini Choudhury of Samdani Art Foundation, the show's works attempt to connect audiences with their childhood selves through a variety of immersive experiences. Meant for visitors of all ages, many of the pieces here welcome children to be their most boisterous and playful selves. Some hope to inspire children to challenge society's limits on their expression. 

Students from multiple schools visited DAS on field trips on Monday, visiting the different galleries. The school students jumped with delight at the opportunity to participate in some of the installations — sometimes literally, as in Ahmet Ogut's Jump Up! where visitors bounce on trampolines placed below artworks to view them. In Neha Choksi and Rachelle Rojany's Swing for friends, multiple participants swing together in a circular swing set. Afrah Shafiq's Nobody Knows For Certain offers an interactive narrative video game installation, where audiences participate in the story through keyboard and mouse interactions.

Sanjoy Chakraborty's Shades of Flowers invites children to draw on a red wall, the red signifying a communal space without restrictions. Marzia Farhana's The Eqilibrium Project showcases 270 student artworks and invites children inside a small schoolhouse-like enclosure where they are free to draw or write as they please on a blackboard. Belly of the Strange provides a similar cozy setting with educational materials, hosting a collection of books in indigenous languages, covering everyday encounters that are centuries old, but also echo current realities of today's native speakers. 

Some of the installations focused on educational materials. For example, screens looped old BTV recordings of the 1990's era Bengali-language children's cartoon Meena among other shows. Other pieces showcased comics and illustrations with children as central characters, such as Anpu Varkey's Summer's Children and Satyajit Ray's Two: A Film Fable, both silent stories told through children's eyes. Varkey's illustrated graphic novel depicts lost daily pleasures: two brothers running through fields, observing ant hills, swimming in rivers, picking leaves, and plucking from trees... Ray's film draws parallels while simultaneously distinguishing the life and luxuries of children of lower and higher classes. In their attempts to best each other, the film's children end up alone instead of embracing their potential bond.

Many students seemed inspired by the immersive setting of the third floor Doiddha (Duality) gallery. Created as one fluid set piece, curated by Brihatta Art Foundation and Dhaka University's Bishwajit Goswami, Duality unites the work of 39 Bangladeshi artists to evoke Bangladesh's ecology of water, sky and land. Students said the installation helped convey, through art, the gravity of environmental concepts such as the effects of climate change on Bangladesh's six seasons and on the Sundarbans.

At the day's end, the students appeared visibly excited by the experience. Asked if the Dhaka Art Summit had inspired any of them to become artists, a group of Class II students shouted a resounding “YES!”

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