With two fairly successful events covered, the Art Weekend, a two day art exhibition hosted by a number of embassies in Dhaka at the residences of the respective ambassadors, was an event Weekend Tribune was eagerly looking forward to attending. Hosting this year’s AW (held July 21-22) were the German Embassy, the Embassy of Denmark, and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.
“There has never been a more important time for an event like this” said German Ambassador Dr Thomas Prinz, towering over this writer’s not inconsiderable height as he alluded to last year’s Gulshan attack. “There are people who will try to scare you, tell you “don’t do this, don’t go out, live in fear. How do you stand up to them? You continue to live your life, to make and enjoy art.”
Adorning the white walls of his residence were photographs by Shamim Shorif Susom, a young aviator and photographer, whose stunning aerial shots of rural Bangladesh resemble abstract paintings, bursting with life and colour.
The Norwegian ambassador’s place is just a hop, skip and jump away, and housed an impressive collection of artwork rendered by 13 students from the Fine Arts Institute of the Khulna University. From sculptures to lithographs to mixed media paintings, all of the pieces were inspired by famed Norwegian author and freedom of speech advocate Henrik Ibsen.
“Ibsen’s messages remain relevant today, even in our context” said Abu Kalam Shamsuddin, one of the participating artists. When asked about the most memorable aspect of his group’s journey from Khulna University to the ambassador’s house in Dhaka, he laughed and replied “Transporting all the artwork – particularly the sculptures. We had our hands on our hearts half the time.”
A rainy rickshaw ride away, the mood was a festive one at the Danish ambassador’s house. On the walls hung vibrant watercolour paintings by indigenous artists Lumbiny Dewan, Nomosta Rema and Shudip Chakma. The ambassador’s beautiful wife Ratanawadee Hemniti Winther welcomed all visitors with a gracious smile. On special display racks, diaphanous dresses in delicate muslins rendered by designer Maria Sultana Mumu, and in one corner, the Ambassador’s collection of guitars. “I just put them up there too, because I like music, and I’m entertaining everyone at my gallery today,” said Ambassador Mikael Hemniti Winther, with a smile. Sobering up, he continued “Considering the unrest and landslides happening down in the CHT, it’s been a terrible year for the indigenous community, coming after several terrible years. It’s important to listen to them, to give them a voice, and art is a good way to start that conversation.”
From fashion to freedom of speech, from aerial photographs to beautiful watercolour paintings, this year’s Art Weekend was a treat to the senses, and provided plenty of food for thought.