With the help of a hundred member local volunteer group and four of his neighbours from Poland, sculptor and artist Pawel Althamer has completed the first commission for Srihatta, the Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park in rural Sylhet.
This is a first for the city which is generally popular among religious devotees because of its many Muslim burial sites.
The sculpture, which is a giant figure of a reclining woman dressed in bright scarves, is called Rokeya after Bengali writer and women’s rights activist Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932). It is made of fabric, stitched by local women, placed over a bamboo frame.
According to Althamer, his dream is to use the sculpture and the park to inspire the locals.
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Polish artist Pawel Althamer stands with a group of children who aided him in making his sculpture for the Samdani Art Centre in Sylhet Samdani Art Foundation
“We explained (to the local Imam) we were a group of Polish artists, there to build a place for integration, for local children’s society, a cultural place and a place for art, rather than a temple,” The Art Newspaper
quotes him as saying.
The park, several thousand square metres in size, will open for the public in 2018, after several other site-specific projects by artists Asim Waqif, Ayesha Sultana, Rana Begum, Mithu Sen and others are complete.
“This art of sculpture is not just for visitors, but for locals to be confronted with ideas very far from their style of life but very inspiring for them. It’s something extraordinary, full of energy,” says Althamer.
Samdani Art Foundation Artistic Director Diana Campbell Betancourt said their aim is to reach the local community and engage them in using art as a tool for education. She added that residences would also be built there for national and international artists, curators and art professionals.
The Polish group were in Bangladesh for eight days for the project, which has been run in conjunction with MoMA Warsaw and the Brodno Sculpture Park Althamer launched in Poland.