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      Volume 11 |Issue 38| September 28, 2012 |


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Two human figures emerge from the driftwood. Photo: Munir Ahmed Ananta

The solitude of a quiet life

Maya Barolo

Driftwood sculpture on display at Shilpangan Gallery. Photo: Munir Ahmed Ananta

Renowned artist Ferdousi Priyobhashini's latest exhibition 'Dialogue of Nature' is an expression of the artist's quest for solitude and inner peace.

With the discerning eye of an artist, Priyobhashini sees beauty where others see broken pieces of wood. She thoughtfully selected pieces of driftwood from the streets and from them fashioned human figures, birds, rural scenes and urban landscapes. Without using varnish or colour, Priyobhashini allows the nuances and subtle shapes of the natural form of the driftwood to come through.

Inspiration for the collection came from the Tagore songs she used to recite as a child, in which the “expression of human goodness was very much present”. According to Priyobhashini, “someone should be good on the inside, not on the outside. I am not concerned with outward appearances. I want to think. I think more and talk less. That is why in my house I don't talk much”. The internal solitude the artist seeks is represented in the quiet and gentle curves of the driftwood. And while she says that “I love all the pieces, as though they were my children”, her favourites amongst them are those of women and birds.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Priyobhashini, wearing a simple cotton saree and several necklaces made of shells, woven reeds and painted beans, all of her own design, walked through the gallery and mingled with her many admirers, fellow artists and friends. Having recently undergone heart surgery, Priyobhashini then sat herself on a stool in a corner of the exhibition, giving interviews and discussing her artwork with the visitors.

Priyobhashini at her home in Dhanmondi, surrounded by her art. Photo: Munir Ahmed Ananta

One of the first women to speak publicly about the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of the Pakistan Army during the 1971 war, Priyobhashini became a national figure and prominent activist at a young age. While Priyobhashini has been able to overcome the many obstacles that she encountered, she has not forgotten the experiences that changed her life forever. “I have anger against 71's criminals who violated me, not only for me, but for the 3 lakh women they raped, which I have seen with my own eyes,” she says.

Even though she was publicly celebrated as a Birongona, Priyobhashini, like the hundreds of thousands of other rape victims, found that society was not willing to accept her. But Priyobhashini did not allow her traumatic experiences and the prejudices of society to stand in her way. With courage and fortitude, she refused to be a victim and went on to forge a successful career working for UNICEF, UNDP and FAO. But the glamour and prestige of these positions was not enough to draw her away from her passion for art. She soon realised that she was “at times not mindful to [her] day job” and found true fulfilment in her real vocation: art.

She withdrew into a world of her own, where her mind could dwell freely and find the solitude she so deeply craved. With a faraway look in her eyes, she says, “I want to be alone. I prefer to be alone. I enjoy the lonely life”. Despite having no formal art training, Priyobhashini has become one of Bangladesh's leading artists. She channelled her life experiences through the medium of sculpture with great imagination and creativity.

While her life and work has been shaped by the painful experiences of 1971, this exhibition is not about the horrors of war. Instead, she says, “even though I am a victim of 71 and the war touched me, I don't want to show my sorrow in every moment”. The exhibition is “an expression of my love, my humanity, my silence and the internal drama in my mind”.

'Dialogue of Nature' is open through October 2, from 12 to 8 pm daily at Shilpangan Gallery in Dhanmondi.





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