A Santa Claus of arts | The Daily Star
12:08 AM, December 18, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:35 AM, December 18, 2013

A Santa Claus of arts

Thomas Lehman's heartwarming art project “A Piece for You”

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Thomas Lehman spreading smiles along the miles on his motorcycle...  Photo Courtesy: Thomas Lehman Thomas Lehman spreading smiles along the miles on his motorcycle... Photo Courtesy: Thomas Lehman

Many people say gift-giving is an art. Thomas Lehman -- a German choreographer -- has taken that concept a level higher; he gives people presents of performance. And that is not the most remarkable aspect of his little project; it is that he gives these gifts to strangers in strange lands. Thomas' art project “A Piece for You' has been criss-crossing through Europe and Central Asia and is currently in Bangladesh, spreading smiles along the miles on his motorcycle.
Thomas himself explains, talking to The Daily Star at the studio of Shadhona dance school last week: “I think giving presents is a very special human interaction. They link people in and across societies. I thought of this unique present to give to people, which would be a performance choreographed and designed specifically for the 'presentee'. So I set out on a tour, going to places and experiencing human interactions as I gave people the gifts. I think what's special about it is the presenter investing their time, energy and skills, to create something unique and beautiful for the presentee.”
So, how does Thomas know what gift he is going to give to a stranger he meets in a foreign country? “I have to get to know that person. I have to talk to them, bond with them and only then I can figure out what I could give them as a present. That I think has been one of the most fascinating aspects of my journey. I have met so many people, spent time with them and communicated with them without speaking a word of each others' language, and even felt care and concern; that communication and connection in itself is art to me,” says a beaming Thomas.
His decision of coming to Bangladesh has been backed well by the Goethe-Institut and Shadhona. “When I was planning, I contacted many of the Goethe-Institut offices abroad, and the Dhaka office responded very quickly. They have worked together with Shadhona before, and when I got in touch with Lubna Marium -- she was positive in her feedback immediately, and it has gone very smoothly. My motorbike is not with me though; it was packed from Kygyistan to go to Japan, where I will meet it again.” And of his work with Shadhona, he says “My project is open to collaborations and I've done workshops in other 'stations' of my visit, so I'm doing that here. The dancers of Shadhona are giving gifts for each other; I am just trying to infuse the idea into their minds and help them put it together. I haven't got a lot of time with them (until when the interview was done), but they are an energetic bunch and I'm looking forward to the presentation.”
The Dhaka edition of “A Piece for You” will be held today (December 18) at the Goethe-Institut in Dhanmondi. Thomas will move on to Korea, China, and Japan and countries in between, while his map is circled on South, Middle and North America for 2015, and if all goes well, he will travel through Africa and back to Europe in 2016.

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