The Dhaka Art Summit 2020: Seismic Movements (DAS 2020) features many richly curated research-based exhibitions. Initiated by Samdani Art Foundation (SAF), with support from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, the grand art event, held biennially, is now underway at the National Art Gallery of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA), and will run until February 15.
Lighting the Fire of Freedom: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, an initiative of Centre for Research and Information (CRI), ICT Division of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, in partnership with BSA and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, pays the richest tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, marking his birth centenary.
Organised simultaneously with DAS 2020, the exhibition, curated by Ruxmini Reckvana Q Choudhury, Assistant Curator of SAF, offers intimate and lesser known details about the illustrious life of the leader, with bold and magnanimous works on Bangabandhu (1920 – 1975). It narrates the journey of the Father of the Nation chronologically, through a rich variety of archival and contemporary materials, including artworks, personal photographs, newspapers, videos, a visual projection of his historic 7th March speech and digital books. The exhibition treasures historic moments, dating back to the Bengal Presidency under the British Raj, the East Pakistan regime, and finally Bangladesh, a democratic independent nation, where Bangabandhu's legacy remains alive.
Grandson of Bangabandhu, Radwan Mujib Siddiq visited the summit. He was particularly impressed by the exhibition, titled Roots, curated by Bishwajit Goswami, who summarises his thinking by integrating the history of the art and movement of Bangladesh with the works of fine art teachers and renowned artists. Radwan believes that these works will have a positive impact on today's youth.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, throughout his political career, worked to decolonise the nation of Bengalis away from imperial British rule, towards democracy and socialism. The people of Bangladesh lovingly gave him the title 'Bangabandhu' (Friend of Bengal), recognising his love for the country and its people. From addressing the challenges of the partition of 1947, fighting in the 1952 Language Movement to battling for the country's independence in 1971, Bangabandhu strove to lead the resilient people of Bangladesh into an empowered nation. He played a vital role in many glorious political movements, especially the 1966 six-point movement, the landslide victory in the 1970 democratic general election and the 1971 Liberation War.
On the night of March 25, 1971, the Pakistani Army heinously attacked and killed tens of thousands of peaceful, unarmed and sleeping people. The incident led Bangabandhu to declare our independence through a broadcast via EPR wireless, before he was arrested. From students to rural farmers to people from all walks of life, inspired by Bangabandhu's speech, marched forward to fight against the Pakistani army. Bangladesh achieved Independence on December 16 through a nine-month war in 1971.
The post-liberation period was the most important time for Bangabandhu. Although freedom was achieved, his dream of 'Sonar Bangla' was still far from being realised. He strengthened foreign policy to garner international support and recognition for the new nation.
After independence, the people of Bangladesh hoped that peace would prevail in the suffering lands. Unfortunately, corruption and internal political infighting got in the way of that dream. Bangabandhu was fearless and uncompromising in his ideals to the point that those seeking power were threatened by his leadership. He tried to introduce a series of amendments to the constitution in his three and a half years of power. His socialist ideals became a threat to the military, pro-Pakistanis and corrupt businessmen. On 15 August 1975, through a military coup, Bangabandhu and members of his family were brutally murdered. His two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, who were residing in Belgium at that time, were spared the gruesome killings.
Bangabandhu's leadership and personality remain alive in the hearts of Bangladeshis today. Although over one-fourth of his 55-year life was spent behind bars, his legacy was one of freedom. The exhibition, too, symbolically represents his life behind bars.