Aspiring artists take centre stage to share ‘untold stories about the Rohingyas’
Art and storytelling have been closely interwoven right from the start, when Neanderthals used rocks to etch their stories onto the walls of caves. To use it as a medium to depict the harrowing tales of the voiceless is honouring its history, honouring those whose stories are being told. The minds behind Art for Cause – mere high-school students, have ventured forth to do exactly that.
From July 13 to 15, Drik Gallery in Dhanmondi became the setting for Art for Cause: Chapter 1, an art exhibition brought to life with the vision of sharing ‘untold stories about the Rohingyas’ with the world.
On Friday, the event was inaugurated by Adv Dhrindra Debnath Shambhu MP, Chairman of the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief of the Bangladeshi Parliament and Prof Md Golam Rahman, Former Chief Information Commissioner and Guest of Honour.
The exhibition showcased 52 paintings in addition to a number of installations. Art for Cause: Chapter 1 was the collaboration of 27 young artists with varying degrees of experience. Artists from BUET and Charukola contributed, as did students from the nation’s best schools – one even so young as 14 years old!
The event offered opportunities that were not limited to appreciating the artwork, but also providing engaging experiences the crowds could take home with them. On Saturday, spectators were encouraged to decorate their own canvases with paint through Fluid Art Fest, where they could mix fluid paints and inventively employ cups to fill a blank canvas with a myriad of colours. As the event came to a close on Sunday night, melodies filled the venue with the open mic session. Musicians and poets took the floor to enthral the audience with their tunes and rhythmic phrases.
“The participation of so many young, enthusiastic artists surely shows that this country has numerous youngsters with potential,” says Humayra Rahman. Art for Cause received overwhelming response from their audience. The air was ripe with appreciation for these youths and admiration for the initiative they took.
For the organizers themselves, the exhibition signified more than just an opportunity to showcase their talents. It was their chance to show – rather than tell – that artists can make an impact too. Well-versed in the rich history of art in Bangladesh, these aspiring artists cited Shilpacharjya Zainul Abedin and his famous work on famine as their inspiration amongst other renowned artists who have left their mark.
Their commitment to telling the stories of one of the world’s largest stateless populations went beyond merely scratching the surface. A five-member team visited the Rohingya refugee camps twice in the past few months to hear their stories, photograph them and record their lifestyles. The fruits of their labour may be found in the form of a stunning video on their Facebook page.
“Everyone says there should be steps taken to take away the pain, but no one acts. So we did what we do best. We picked up our brushes and we painted. Art is a form of communication in itself, and when we realized this was the way to make people care, we didn’t waste any time in doing it,” says Mohammad Shadab Naveed, Founder and President of Art for Cause.
Artfully captured in their pieces were the tales of an ethnic minority who were forced out of their homes and made to suffer truly terrifying atrocities. Yet, they smile. Children play and women sew flowers onto fabric because they understand life’s most basic principle – it goes on. Their courage and strength are unparalleled, which is exactly what these young aspiring artists hoped to portray.
For the Rohingyas, they had a simple message, “We are here for you, and we want to help.”
The compelling pieces allowed on-lookers to not only admire the dynamic creations on a purely aesthetic level, but also delve deeper into the meanings behind them. The event’s artwork was multidimensional, exploring different facets of suffering. Particularly enticing, and a crowd-favourite, was Jareen Chowdhury’s ‘Death of’ series – five paintings expressing the death of wisdom, unconditional love, hope, strength and childhood.
Nirmegh Foundation – the strategic partner of Art for Cause – is another youth-led organization, founded by Fariha Khan, which will ensure that all proceeds, including donations and profits from the sale of prints and merchandise, go to the Rohingyas directly.