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Artfully Inarticulate

  • Published at 05:37 pm November 26th, 2016
Artfully Inarticulate

When our relationships with family, friends and loved ones feel strained and helplessly disconnected, art can help play a role in expression. 'Artfully Inarticulate', one of the many panels held at the Dhaka Literary Festival 2016, celebrated art as a powerful confessional tool, to express ourselves to others or even ourselves. The panellists included local artists Kazi Istela, Nuhash Humayun, and Mahenaz Chowdhury, who shared their personal stories aided with illustrations of their works.

Kazi Istela

Istela believes people often find it difficult to communicate, and her art acts an outlet through which she can convey her thoughts more effectively.

She talked about how we find it difficult to communicate with our parents, even if it's about expressing our love to them. "We grow up, not being able to say love you, or sorry, or thank you," she expressed.

Her art is a reflection of how she feels and what she goes through at that exact moment. Sometimes she may draw something subconsciously, and later on realise that it portrays what she was feeling back then. "When your parents are going through something difficult, or they are in pain, and you can't really say something to make it better, art becomes a tool to release those feelings from within yourself," added Istela.

The young artist also went on to explain how her sketches represent expectations versus the reality - what society expects from her versus what she wants out of her life. She went on to say that we are afraid to show who we actually are, because we feel society will judge. And, even with our families, we are scared to express who we really are, so art becomes a medium to get those sentiments out of one's system.

Nuhash Humayun

Nuhash Humayun believes he can express himself with more clarity through his sketches, as he was never too comfortable with one-on-one conversations. While talking about how he communicates through his artwork at the DLF, Nuhash shared an account of something that recently happened in his house and how it affected its dynamics.

The story begins with 'Khala' – the helping hand of their family who was very hard working and basically did everything. But one day Khala did something very shocking – she ran away with Tk40,000.

It is when Khala left that Nuhash and his mom realised they had to cook for themselves. His mom usually stays busy with her work, and so does he. It was actually the first time they started having dinner together as a family, and sitting there, eating at the huge table which is meant for a lot more people, Nuhash and his mother didn't have much to talk about.

The first week was his mother complaining all day about Khala leaving. A couple of weeks passed, and they were still talking about the same thing. This made Nuhash realise that it was not just an inconvenience, but the fact that Khala and his mother were really close. For example, when his mom came back from home after a bad day, she would unburden herself to Khala, and when she had a good day, they watched Bangla soap operas like Bojhe na shey bojhe na together.

For Nuhash, that was kind of sad to think about, because a person who was paid to live in their house had more of a connection with his mom than he ever did. But what made him think harder was the feeling of loss you have when someone leaves. This feeling something he got used to as he grew older. The first time he experienced this was when his sisters started getting married, and for him, family was never the thing he had, but a thing which other people left him for. So the word 'family' does not have that warm ring to it, like it does to other people.

"It is not the saddest thing that can happen to someone – it is the easiest thing to deal with. It is very easy to romanticise the idea of people leaving. What's harder is when you are in a relationship or living in a house with people, but you still try to find ways to connect to them. And, that leads to miscommunication – when you are there, and you feel like you're not," he expressed. For this reason, Nuhash and his mother are trying spend more time together and find space for themselves.

Once Nuhash was invited to participate in 'The Invisibellas,' an art exhibition for Women's day. He ended up doing a graphic novel which was about his relationship with the women in his life, his mom, his sisters, and girlfriends. And it was after he finished making it that he realised, he was actually venting – it was about him taking all the troubles at home and putting it out there. His mom and sisters visited the exhibition after they got to know about the event from Facebook, and eventually after their visit, his sister got emotional and called him over to reconnect. But, that made Nuhash realise how he had to exhibit his works just to express his feelings for people who live with him.

"It gets so difficult for people to communicate in today's world, that we are always putting up shows, our very own exhibitions, hoping that the right person will see it. Sometimes we find healthy ways of doing it, but sometimes we find really unhealthy ways to express ourselves," added Nuhash.

Art for Nuhash is not always the productive or convenient way of expressing himself, but it keeps him away from self-destruction, which is worth something. It helps him stay grounded, find ways to deal with his problems, and put himself out there.

Mahenaz Chowdhury

Just like how photographs serve as a memory of a moment, Mahenaz believes that her sketches are tokens of memory. She often faces trouble remembering things and explaining her own thoughts. So she draws. Being a single child, she always kept on searching for her identity. Her life was split in two halves - living in two separate locations, having two names, and hence, two identities.

In the fourth grade, Mahenaz and the other students were asked to write about what each of them wanted to be when they grew up, and her immediate response was that she wanted to become a man. Back in those days, being a man meant to be free of petty restrictions and impositions."I was a bro to my guy friends. Part of their sacred crew!" said Mahenaz.

Among girls, she always felt like an alien, because of constant unspoken conflicts with them. She could not comprehend what was confusing them about her. Her confusion persisted till puberty.

While growing up to become a woman, the alienation was different - now, she had a few close girl friends. Her guy friends seemed to have a different wavelength now - making plans without her to play football with other guys. She was trapped, struggling with who she needed to be like with her friends.

As her frustrations grew, Mahenaz's perception of herself began to develop through her sketches. She hoped to connect to her friends through them, and it was fascinating to learn what emotions she was provoking in them through her sketches. And with relationships came its own set of difficulties. She had no idea if she should ''be less of a dude'' or ''more of a girl.” Dealing with ego and submission, while being humble and bold at the same time was hard for her. She spent two years in one of her relationships, dwelling in depression and eventually, ended up burning her sketchbook. It hurt a lot, but erasing it was the only way out.

Mahenaz is a grown and confident woman now, who has needs and desires that she is aware of. But her search to find her identity still continues. During these times, she has been able to draw how she perceives love. And in all reality she still doesn't know who she is.

When our relationships with family, friends and loved ones feel strained and helplessly disconnected, art can help play a role in expression. 'Artfully Inarticulate', one of the many panels held at the Dhaka Literary Festival 2016, celebrated art as a powerful confessional tool, to express ourselves to others or even ourselves. The panellists included local artists Kazi Istela, Nuhash Humayun, and Mahenaz Chowdhury, who shared their personal stories aided with illustrations of their works.

Kazi Istela

Istela believes people often find it difficult to communicate, and her art acts an outlet through which she can convey her thoughts more effectively.

She talked about how we find it difficult to communicate with our parents, even if it's about expressing our love to them. "We grow up, not being able to say love you, or sorry, or thank you," she expressed.

Her art is a reflection of how she feels and what she goes through at that exact moment. Sometimes she may draw something subconsciously, and later on realise that it portrays what she was feeling back then. "When your parents are going through something difficult, or they are in pain, and you can't really say something to make it better, art becomes a tool to release those feelings from within yourself," added Istela.

The young artist also went on to explain how her sketches represent expectations versus the reality - what society expects from her versus what she wants out of her life. She went on to say that we are afraid to show who we actually are, because we feel society will judge. And, even with our families, we are scared to express who we really are, so art becomes a medium to get those sentiments out of one's system.

Nuhash Humayun

Nuhash Humayun believes he can express himself with more clarity through his sketches, as he was never too comfortable with one-on-one conversations. While talking about how he communicates through his artwork at the DLF, Nuhash shared an account of something that recently happened in his house and how it affected its dynamics.

The story begins with 'Khala' – the helping hand of their family who was very hard working and basically did everything. But one day Khala did something very shocking – she ran away with Tk40,000.

It is when Khala left that Nuhash and his mom realised they had to cook for themselves. His mom usually stays busy with her work, and so does he. It was actually the first time they started having dinner together as a family, and sitting there, eating at the huge table which is meant for a lot more people, Nuhash and his mother didn't have much to talk about.

The first week was his mother complaining all day about Khala leaving. A couple of weeks passed, and they were still talking about the same thing. This made Nuhash realise that it was not just an inconvenience, but the fact that Khala and his mother were really close. For example, when his mom came back from home after a bad day, she would unburden herself to Khala, and when she had a good day, they watched Bangla soap operas like Bojhe na shey bojhe na together.

For Nuhash, that was kind of sad to think about, because a person who was paid to live in their house had more of a connection with his mom than he ever did. But what made him think harder was the feeling of loss you have when someone leaves. This feeling something he got used to as he grew older. The first time he experienced this was when his sisters started getting married, and for him, family was never the thing he had, but a thing which other people left him for. So the word 'family' does not have that warm ring to it, like it does to other people.

"It is not the saddest thing that can happen to someone – it is the easiest thing to deal with. It is very easy to romanticise the idea of people leaving. What's harder is when you are in a relationship or living in a house with people, but you still try to find ways to connect to them. And, that leads to miscommunication – when you are there, and you feel like you're not," he expressed. For this reason, Nuhash and his mother are trying spend more time together and find space for themselves.

Once Nuhash was invited to participate in 'The Invisibellas,' an art exhibition for Women's day. He ended up doing a graphic novel which was about his relationship with the women in his life, his mom, his sisters, and girlfriends. And it was after he finished making it that he realised, he was actually venting – it was about him taking all the troubles at home and putting it out there. His mom and sisters visited the exhibition after they got to know about the event from Facebook, and eventually after their visit, his sister got emotional and called him over to reconnect. But, that made Nuhash realise how he had to exhibit his works just to express his feelings for people who live with him.

"It gets so difficult for people to communicate in today's world, that we are always putting up shows, our very own exhibitions, hoping that the right person will see it. Sometimes we find healthy ways of doing it, but sometimes we find really unhealthy ways to express ourselves," added Nuhash.

Art for Nuhash is not always the productive or convenient way of expressing himself, but it keeps him away from self-destruction, which is worth something. It helps him stay grounded, find ways to deal with his problems, and put himself out there.

Mahenaz Chowdhury

Just like how photographs serve as a memory of a moment, Mahenaz believes that her sketches are tokens of memory. She often faces trouble remembering things and explaining her own thoughts. So she draws. Being a single child, she always kept on searching for her identity. Her life was split in two halves - living in two separate locations, having two names, and hence, two identities.

In the fourth grade, Mahenaz and the other students were asked to write about what each of them wanted to be when they grew up, and her immediate response was that she wanted to become a man. Back in those days, being a man meant to be free of petty restrictions and impositions."I was a bro to my guy friends. Part of their sacred crew!" said Mahenaz.

Among girls, she always felt like an alien, because of constant unspoken conflicts with them. She could not comprehend what was confusing them about her. Her confusion persisted till puberty.

While growing up to become a woman, the alienation was different - now, she had a few close girl friends. Her guy friends seemed to have a different wavelength now - making plans without her to play football with other guys. She was trapped, struggling with who she needed to be like with her friends.

As her frustrations grew, Mahenaz's perception of herself began to develop through her sketches. She hoped to connect to her friends through them, and it was fascinating to learn what emotions she was provoking in them through her sketches. And with relationships came its own set of difficulties. She had no idea if she should ''be less of a dude'' or ''more of a girl.” Dealing with ego and submission, while being humble and bold at the same time was hard for her. She spent two years in one of her relationships, dwelling in depression and eventually, ended up burning her sketchbook. It hurt a lot, but erasing it was the only way out.

Mahenaz is a grown and confident woman now, who has needs and desires that she is aware of. But her search to find her identity still continues. During these times, she has been able to draw how she perceives love. And in all reality she still doesn't know who she is.