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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

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Exhibition
Women's endeavour
Shako's exhibition at Chitrak



TO mark International Women's Day, Shako, a women artists' association, is currently holding a group art exhibition at Chitrak, Dhanmondi. The group had held a workshop last winter at the Mirpur wing of Centre for Rehabilitation for the Paralysed (CRP). The present display is a follow up on the workshop. Describing the works of art, the guest of honour Ericka Smith-Thomas said, 'Canvas after canvas revealed to me stories of the women of Bangladesh. These were stories of childhood pleasures and village life. These were stories of national identity, of relationship to nature, and relationships with men. These were stories of women claiming the right to live freely without the threat of violence'.

The display is bold, experimental and informative. Two survivors of accidents and many well-known Bangladeshi women painters displayed their works.

Farida Zaman, in her acrylic on canvas, 'Sufia with her lovely bird' depicts a blind girl playing with a heron. The happy images that surround her on the canvas -- of flowers, full moon, a boat and fish -- are drawn from her childhood memories of the countryside. The moonlight has been captured in spots of pulsating silver dots. Farida says, 'I feel that our handicapped women aspire for a happy life despite their limitations.' Farida uses mixed media in her work with acrylic, pen and water colour. Her human figures are mostly that of young women while other forms often use folk elements. 'This is because our women are often neglected,' she says.

Naima Haque's 'Luna' has the image of a moon with a splash of black. The paper surface is scattered with paintings of burnt out matches, cigarette butts and stars. The artist wishes to capture a woman's existence: the cigarettes are symbols of women and the match sticks are men. 'Women,' says Naima, 'are used and thrown away like the cigarette butts. The moon figure is the victim who has been attacked as she refused to respond to the male advances. In our society there is no stability for women.'

'View from CRP', by Nasreen Begum , brings in a country scene with huts, hedges, indigo and black trees, with reflection in the water in front in blue. Nasreen's technique is oriental art while her medium is water colour. Her works remain picturesque. She hopes to guide and help young artists, like Lovely, the mouth- painter and Rubina, an acid victim, who were present at the CRP workshop.

Kuhu, in 'Embracing pain', depicts Rubina, an acid survivor, who was one of the participants of the CRP workshop. The artist brings herself into focus as a sister figure embracing her. The part of Rubina's face that is burnt is covered with hair and one of her eyes is smaller than the other, showing disfigurement. 'This is how she looks now after plastic surgery,' said Kuhu. Around the central figures are impressionistic forms of faces of acid survivors in shades of gray and purple. The work is in pencil and charcoal. For about 15 years Kuhu has focused on sex workers in 'burqa' because, she says, 'There is a definite beauty in these women, judging by the parts of their figures and faces that are revealed. We try to shut them out while I try to bring them out for viewers to admire.' Kuhu's art work consists of drawings in black which are realistic as she is not fond of distortion found in modern art.

In 'Untitled-1' Fareha Zeba reflects the pain of a survivor of an acid attack. The masks used on the canvas bring in the tormented face as compared to the normal unmarred face before the mishap. She made the faces out of clay, paper and thread. The normal untouched face and the marred one are linked together by splashes of black. This expressionist work is admirable indeed for its ability to express women's insecurity in society.

'Responsibility', by Kanak Chanpa Chakma, uses paper collage on the canvas and brings in a traditional theme in an impressionistic way. The collages include a vertical yellow band to the right, and a horizontal one in the forefront, which forms the woman's sarong. 'The woman's load of the basket of sticks represents her responsibilities and her fears. She appears ashen and indifferent to the natural beauty that surrounds her as she is preoccupied with her task of gathering firewood for a living.' Kanak points out that the tribal women from the Chittagong Hill Tracts are much more hardworking than their male counterparts. The painting was specially done to mark International Women's Day.

Tandra Das, who works with tempera, has brought in sombre colours in her work 'Chitro-II' to represent winter. It has women's figures cooking fish. These are presented in simple child-like forms. The painting is on cloth, worked on with egg yolk, and has a collage of white to the left to relieve the monotony of the grayish shades. Tandra says, 'I've crushed the cloth to give more dimension to the painting.'

The recent exhibition is a must not just for art lovers but also for those interested in women's issues. Hopefully we will see more of Shako's works in Dhaka.

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