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Artists from Oman take part in 19th Asian Art Biennale in Dhaka

2 Jan 2023 art biennale By HUBERT VAZ

The month-long 19th Asian Art Biennale (December 8, 2022 – January 7, 2023) currently underway in Dhaka, Bangladesh, showcased 712 artworks by artists from 114 countries, including five artists from Oman, focusing upon displacement and ‘unhomeliness’ around the world

Five artists from Oman recently visited Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, to participate in the month-long 19th Asian Art Biennale which was inaugurated by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the National Theatre Auditorium of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on December 8.

The participant artists from Oman included Halima al Bulushi, Said al Alawi, Khalil al Khalbani, and Dr Nasser Palangi and Farideh Zariv (both Australian-Iranian artists residing in Oman), all of whom presented their artworks conforming to the theme – Home and Displacement – which was chosen to pay tribute to the victims of forced displacement everywhere in the world and to pledge to stand by them, so that those still alive do not become forgotten souls.

This 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh 2022 has been dedicated to the founding president of Bangladesh – Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who is a much revered figure in the country. The biennale focuses on the complexities that the globalised world is witnessing where, on the one hand economic and other classes of migrants establish their presence in different cultural landscapes, and, on the other forced displacement is uprooting entire communities from their lands and planting them in faraway places.

‘While the concept of home and homeliness has always been a stable signifier of social condition, displacement destabilises it and forces a new understanding of such terms as ‘unhomeliness’ and ethnic cleansing, the organisers of the event say, posing questions, such as, ‘How does an artist react when home for many becomes a distant memory, or a constant reminder of trauma to be lived over and over again? What emotions does exile evoke? How do exile and displacement impact human creativity? Above all, at a time when rights the media picks up a terrorist attack or hate crime in Europe for a worldwide coverage, why are these unfortunate people consigned to media oblivion? How do they figure in official discourses – in art and literature? These questions were considered crucial to engage artists and the 19th Asian Art Biennale was designed to allow Asian artists respond to them in their own creative way.

The biennale was also open to delving into other options, such as the fast-track developments in communication technology, the expansion of the visual media and urbanisation, the rise of ideologies in our time or the ‘disappearance of green’ from our lives. As some artists explored these options, they managed to link with the main theme.

Hosted by the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA), the main exhibition showcased 712 pieces of artwork created by 493 artists from 114 countries, including 149 Bangladeshi artists.

On display were a variety of art-forms including paintings, prints, photographs, installation, performance art, sculpture and new media art created by the participating artists from across the globe. A two day seminar was also held as part of the biennale, on the theme of ‘Home and Displacement’, with participation from a number of art-critics, jury members, and observers from Bangladesh and abroad.

Speaking about her participation, Farideh Zariv, Australian-Iranian artist residing in Oman with her husband Dr Nasser Palangi, said, “In my opinion, art biennales can be a place to exchange artistic ideas, teach new methods and materials and use them in presenting artworks with different styles and techniques of today’s world; it is also a place to connect, collaborate and educate each other about evolving concepts in creativity.”

Farideh Zariv (second from left) with international artists, setting out for a cruise around Dhaka

She further said, “The Dhaka biennale was so interesting for me as it was for the first time I participated in a biennale, and in Bangladesh. I managed to meet many artists from Bhutan, Nepal, Senegal, Italy, Sudan, Spain, Gemany, Africa, Pakistan, China, America, Europe, and Asia and shared my experiences as an artist in Oman with them. I also go to learn a lot from them. During cultural activity, such as performances, music, and dance from different nationalities living in Bangladesh, we got to learn a lot about other cultures.”

She noted that textile art was very popular in Bangladesh and one of the key aspects that impacts the country’s economy. “You could see it everywhere and in everyone’s clothes, with unique colours and designs,” she said, adding that young Bangladeshi artists are more contemporary and have brought out that concept that through installations and performances.

The international artists, she said, were appreciative of her work of blending photography with art, as well as those of the Omani artists present. The participants also got an opportunity to visit places of interest in Dhaka, especially the US Museum of At, besides other contemporary museums, as well as a one-day trip aboard a cruise ship to go around the city to observe its culture and hospitality.

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