Do you find the word entertainment synonymous to restaurants in Dhaka? Is your idea of having fun in the capital restricted to selecting the kind of pasta you are going to have for dinner? Is the highlight of your weekend catching yet another superhero movie at Blockbuster? If you answered yes to these questions, then this article is for you.
These are spaces where people can actively participate in arts and cultural activities rather than the comparatively passive status quo—going to the cinema or a concert and visiting exhibitions and galleries. Nor are these fleeting events like literary, music or film festivals which come and go once a year. These are five spaces encouraging its patrons to actively acquire knowledge, learn skills and create—year-round in Dhaka city.
Gayantapas Abdur Razzaq Bidyapeeth
Home to nearly 5000 books, this resource centre in Dhanmondi which started off in November 2015 is the legacy of educationist Abdur Razzaq. While works of fiction and more popular books can be found in bookstores and libraries situated throughout the city, you can find more rare works of literature on topics as varied as history, political science and religion here. Free and open to all, the centre is particularly popular among students from nearby universities who come to read and conduct research.
The centre is a warm and serene environment in which to come discover the world of books. You can stumble on something you may never have heard of but which may come to mean something to you or which you learn immensely from. It is an opportunity to read outside of your comfort zone rather than the latest book everyone is reading for the sake of it. You can check out books for free as well by becoming a member at the centre.
A studio in a corner of Banani overlooking the lake, Clay Station opened last year and is a space where anyone can walk in and learn painting, work with clay and make pottery. Targeted to children and adults alike, it hosts a variety of classes and camps on clay therapy, jewellery design, painting, and sculpting. Excellent for groups coming together to participate in art activities, you do not have to pay for studio time but only for the materials used.
Shunno Art Space
An art studio in Lalmatia aims to create an interactive space for people to create works of art together. It hosts monoprint camps once a week, where participants create plates and print their artworks. Artists work alongside beginners, each group learning from the other. Ceramics too will soon be started where a parent and child team can learn to fire clay together. The studio hopes to make art accessible for all, alongside encouraging artists to share their knowledge and expertise. Zafar Iqbal, printmaker and owner of the studio, says, “We want our space to always be buzzing with positive energy and be a place to build new connections.”
Bishwo Shahitto Kendro
While Bishwo Shahitto Kendro is not new, it certainly deserves a mention, being a pioneer in promoting reading habits in Bangladesh. Their mobile libraries or buses are ubiquitous in both rural and urban areas, counting both children and adults as their readers. But the centre itself, located in Bangla Motor, is the go-to place for their large (free) library, study circles, reader's forums and discussions. Not just an academic institution, it also has an art gallery, theatre stage, children's centre, and music and film archives.
Once out of university, rarely do we get the opportunity to continue learning from speakers, hold discussions with peers and most importantly, have access to a library. For especially this large segment of the population, the centre is a place to reconnect with academics, educators, and professional peers. With a wide variety of spaces on offer, it is similarly appealing for parents to take their children and for students of all ages to go and read, watch, listen, speak, learn and engage.
A music and arts lounge in Banani which hosts regular events—live music, spoken word performances, open mic nights—on the weekends starting from Thursday evenings. Professional and up-and-coming artists have been regularly performing at the space since it started, with patrons paying for tickets to enter the venue on these nights. Attending performances here has become a regular on the weekend scene in Dhaka. Starting since last year, it aims to “add to the cultural scene” in Dhaka, says Israt Zerin, general manager at Jatra Biroti. The scene is lively and colourful with guests interacting with each other and the performers in the intimate rooftop space.