It is breathtaking how the artists of today recall the beauty, tranquillity and magnificence of Old Dhaka that dates back thousands of years to the Turks, Mughals and the Persians. At an exhibition last year at Shilpangan marking its 25th anniversary, renowned artists used their palettes to recreate scenes from their well-loved old city.
Rafiqun Nabi portrayed the place that he lived in as a child and where he went to school. He brought in a horse driven carriage in the gas light with its two drivers. With the carriage going over the cobbled street, you could almost hear the clip-clop of the horse hooves. On the pavement were crows, which Nabi is famous for. The arches and balconies of an older period were seen in the dark. This was named “Memory of an old town” and was in mixed media.
Tahera Khanum's watercolour “Near New market 1955”, was an idyll in sap green, bottle green and jade. The tree clumps surrounded a wicker work house with its thatched roof. The surrounding greenery added to the tranquillity. This was certainly an image of peace — a far cry from the rush and pandemonium of New Market in the 21st century.
“River of Stories” by Biren Shome, pen and ink, was a joy of parallel lines. In the forefront above the pale grey-green wash is the detail of a church with belfries, windows, and arch like that of a tiny fort, which many important buildings, a hundred years back or so tended to be. There were suggestions of buildings at the side. Boats of all shapes and sizes, barges with double-deckers and multi-storied housed were to be seen across the river.
Qayyum Chowdhury's pen and in “Buriganga” was yet another pen and ink sketch on a beige backdrop. There was the song of joy with boats, their paddles, clumps of trees a boat with a house at the back. Crows fly peacefully and clumps of bushes and hedges line this reposeful area, with nothing but blue and green to see.
With acrylic on paper, Mohammed Iqbal presented “Cityscape”. Here lay the beauty of narrow streets lined by multi-storied houses. The houses appeared brick red, beige with turquoise blue for the shutters and the shrubbery growing wild on the walls. The electric poses were brought in with delicacy. There were people seen loitering in saris, lungis and pants. There was a man bending over, arranging goods for sale. A man was seen seated and waiting.
Hamiduzzaman Khan's “Rose Garden at Gopibagh”, in mixed media, was a dream-like creation, recalling the beauty of the Victorian past. There were arches, columns and windows, conjuring up the rhythmic glamour of the Colonial past. The frescoes on the cement work were amazing.
A watercolour creation of Sheikh Afzal's “Memoir” was unforgettable. This expert in portraiture brought in rickshaws, pedestrians and sellers on foot, along with burnt umber poles of electricity with the buildings. The houses were shown as having shops in the ground floor, along with vendors and homes in the first and second. There was a mass of emptiness found in the sky and the paved ground in front lends interest.
(To be continued)