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Dhaka Tribune

Activist Monica Jahan Bose's art exhibition 'Choloman' ends with a bang

The exhibition displayed saris that embody challenges due to climate change and the impact of climate change on farmers 

Update : 04 Apr 2024, 09:49 PM

Speakers reiterated increasing difficulties caused by climate change as the art exhibition "Choloman" by Monica Jahan Bose, an activist and artist, came to a close on Saturday.

Bose, an accomplished arts graduate of both the prestigious Santiniketan and Wesleyan University, created a three-part video that was on display.

After nine years, the artist held a show in Bangladesh, featuring her ongoing collaborative art project with Saris. The exhibition, curated by Ruxmini Choudhury, showcases a three-channel video and colourful cascading saris that tackles climate change and the impact of women on food, the environment, and women's issues.

Photo: Zaid Islam

The opening was held on the March 1, and the show was open every day from 3:00pm to 9:00pm until March 9. 

The final day hosted at the Neighbourhood Art Space at Aloki also known as Shala Art Gallery, ended with a performance by Monica Jahan Bose herself.

The public was to join in and participate in this performance about the perils of climate change and on gender inequality.

The Kolshis (water vessels) were used as a way to reclaim Muslim ritual” where the women shared their hopes for a better climate on the Kolshi, according to Bose. 

She collaborated with women from Katakhali, members of One Billion Rising Bangladesh, and others for the closing performance. Bose showcased her ongoing project with traditional saris made in Katakhali village.

The exhibition displayed saris that embody challenges due to climate change and the impact of climate change on farmers and specifically women farmers due to excessive rain.

“The sari is the most relatable piece of clothing we have,” said Choudhary.  

The saris boasted Bengal’s intricate woodblocks and included pledges written by artists from America.

She included Americans because the country has one of the largest carbon footprint in the world and they should also have a voice in the disproportional destruction caused by climate change.

Bose further mentioned: “saris are the most sustainable piece of clothing you’ll find, no one throws a sari away, saris are a symbol for sustainability”.

Photo: Zaid Islam

The chief guest was Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP, as well as Monica’s mother and former secretary of Samhati, a women's organization in Washington Noor Jahan Bose. 

Displacement

Saber Hossain Chowdhury said: “Usually when we talk about climate change, we get lost in the stats and lose the human connect and interest and Monica has brought that back with a unique artistic expression.”

He was given a letter written by the women from Katakhali that Monica gathered for the closing performance. 

The letter highlighted the problems that they faced due to climate change.

Another artist, Zaid Islam, said: “The best thing Monica did today is have the minister have a direct dialogue with the women from her village about the challenges they face due to climate change.”

The feminist narrative style that Monica Jahan Bose is known for is woven throughout her saris.

Her hometown of Katakhali, Patuakhali, is the inspiration for the idea.

After Noorjahan Bose stepped down as secretary of the Bangladeshi women's organization Samhati in Washington, Monica became secretary.

The organization aims to provide women more agency in the realms of social justice and education.

Asked about her daughter Monica's motivation, Noorjahan said: "Mother's  advice was to do something for yourself and other women too."

Not only did she pass those words on to Monica, but they have also remained with her.

Monica continues the tradition by saying: "We cannot leave it just to the government, we have to take it upon ourselves, which means that each of us must do our part to ensure that our culture is preserved."

Monica Jahan Bose started the feminist storytelling with saris in her ancestral village, Katakhali, Patuakhali, in 2012-2013. Her goal was to work with the women in the community and highlight their recent achievements in literacy and growing leadership within the community.

 She has been involved in an eco-empowerment program for women in Katakhali since 2000. Bose noticed the community was suffering due to rising sea levels.

The locals in this area rely heavily on fishing and selling crops for their livelihood, but unfortunately, climate change has made it difficult for them to produce high-quality crops and for fish to survive due to the increased water temperature.

As a result, many locals are now seeking job opportunities overseas or in urban areas, and their quality of life is suffering. It is imperative to take action to protect this important part of our country's heritage. A community member has taken the initiative to work with others to raise awareness about climate change and its impact on our planet.

There is a massive urban migration as a result of climate change which compromises not only their livelihood but also alienates us from our country's heritage, according to Bose.

Ayesha Rahman Chowdhury, urban research coordinator at Neighborhood Art Space, shared that in light of the massive urban migration from rural spaces to urban areas like Dhaka, climate change is the main driver behind these movements.

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