The importance of the Charukola art festival

Ask anyone who has been through high school in Bangladesh to talk about the banality of art and music lessons throughout school, and it would be possible to summarize the collective experience of an entire generation of school children with a lazily drawn scene of a village house, swaying palm trees, a rippling river in the background and a well-placed cow. Week after week, year after year. Young artist volunteers at Charukola Art Camp this year have noticed the same fate among the schoolchildren they have been assigned to mentor.

The second such Charukola art festival was a four-day event from March 27-30, 2019, held at Bhawal Mirzapur Haji Jamir Uddin School and College in Gazipur, organized with the aim of moving art away from downtown Dhaka, and instead to communities that do not often have the opportunity to engage with art and artists. Renowned artists such as Rafiqun Nabi, Farida Zaman, Mohammad Eunus, Cheikh Afzal Hossain, Afrozaa Jamil Konka, Fareha Zeba and many others were present. Locals came in droves to watch these esteemed artists work during the event. Hundreds of young artists from various fine arts institutions from all over the country also made the trip to Bhawal. As locals flocked during the festival to experience the unique experience of watching such esteemed artists at work under one roof, the essence of the festival was truly rooted in the workshops held for the students of the school. .

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Before the arrival of the senior artists, their younger counterparts had already spent an entire day with the young girls and boys of the Bhawal Mirzapur Haji Jamir Uddin school. The students were divided into several groups and each group was assigned to a young artist. The group then carved out a space for their drawing sessions. Many chose to settle on campus, while others ventured into town or further into the countryside, finding themselves in the shade of trees or sitting on top of a hill. Unlike the aforementioned school art classes (which are sadly familiar in nature to most of us), mentors would give students complete freedom to draw whatever they wanted and help them continue translating their vision step by step. stage. Unfortunately, the artists soon realized that everyone had started to draw the same scene: village house, swaying palm tree and cow. When asked why, the general consensus was that was all they could draw. Later that evening, the performers brought their observations to the organizers, but by then they had wasted half the day and it became apparent to the mentors that these kids were not having fun. They saw the arts camp as a mission instead of enjoying it.

This is a problem that at first glance may not seem serious, but it is indicative of the larger problem of how the arts are viewed in our culture today, especially in rural areas where they are seen as surplus. compared to the requirements of most schools. It is not unique to Bangladesh or even the subcontinent. School boards around the world have come under constant scrutiny for cutting funding for art, music and physical education classes. Let’s be honest, materials don’t come cheap, regardless of school or home. It’s hard to justify spending money on an assortment of art supplies when there are much more pressing issues to deal with. But the way most art classes are delivered across the country is more in tune with keeping students busy for a period of time throughout the school day.

Additionally, what comes across as profanity to both aspiring and established artists is the emphasis on copying something from the review program in an effort to maximize grades. Rather than teaching children skills that they can use to create their own original work, teachers prioritize passing exams. It’s counterintuitive for art classes, where creativity must be defended. Of course, reviews are important and the reasons behind it go way beyond what can be covered here, but all of this translates into another generation unable to cherish their creativity.

Maybe that’s why there was such positivity around the festival. “Such an art festival rarely occurs in Bangladesh,” said famous artist RafiqunNabi, who officially opened the art camp. “As artists, we want to convey our feelings and emotions through art. Beautiful thoughts and joy are prerequisites for work.” The established artists present at the festival themselves testify to the importance of art both on a personal and national level.

Mentors would change their approach after the midday hiccups. They urged students in their separate groups to be inspired by their surroundings. Recognize the things that interest them in their environment. By the time it was time for the students to exhibit their work in the Outer Gallery, the students’ work had ended up covering more mature themes than expected of them, almost exclusively focused on the rapid urbanization of their spaces in pictures of the brickyards that surrounded their school. , deforestation of the surrounding vegetation, pollution of waterways and green spaces by local haat bazaars. That alone makes this art festival a success.

Talat is a sub-editor at Shout and a visual artist. Contact him at @talatxhmed on Instagram.


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Reggie S. Williams

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