Chhobir Haat at a glance
As the very first public space co-opted by artists fresh out of the academia, Chhobir Haat came under the glare of attention by regularly staging art exhibitions, film shows, musical soirees and other forms of social-cultural interventions set to redefine the relationship between the arts and the spectators. An artist-run enterprise, it began its journey with an express cultural agenda of bringing art closer to the audience besides ensuring a place for artists of all stripes and persuasions to display their works executed across a gamut of mediums. Brought to existence as an intersection of all kinds of activisms including a weekend venue for art, Chhobir Haat had its fare share of collaborations, workshops, interactions and periods of high octane energy and slumps which helped galvanize the artists involved, who are in the habit of referring to themselves as Haatures, to explore languages and mediums they had not learned at the conventional educational institutes.
Ten years down the road, last December 2013, they organized a month-long anniversary edition, widening its scope by dividing the programme in three categories: the first comprised of a comprehensive painting exhibition by the core group; the second involved children who were invited to participate in a wide array of events including painting and singing; and the last consisted of the public art projects, completed in phases, where interactive installations comingled with performance and other forms of personalized expressions.
A collective platform to exchange ideas in the relative freedom and autonomy of a public sphere that came into existence on 16 December 2003, its spirit is harnessed in the sobriquet Chhobir Haat. In the Bengali cultural parlance haat stands for a space for congregation and interexchange between rural folks centred on trade and commerce carried out within the paradigm of the rural pre-capitalist mode of production. Inspired by such a trope Chhobir Haat enjoys a singularity as the only public space in Dhaka for art, which is established by means of alternative, non-institutional efforts and a relevant management system that has successfully stepped into its 11th year.
The members, a freewheeling crowd mostly consisting of fine art majors and graduates, of this unique platform are now set to review their activities of the last ten years in light of their achievements and failures. What is in the pipeline is a book to memorialize what the participants may deem the highlights of the activism they were engaged in. The anniversary programmes set in commemoration of a ten year passage were also precisely designed to mirror the thoughts around which the Haat was conceptualized. To fulfill the aim of presenting before an audience a sprawling range of cultural practices and their diverse expressions, commenced a twenty day long cultural carnival – variegated and multiformed in their presentation. Events hosted included: music parade comprising instrumental and vocal renditions, and the omnipresent baul performance, magic shows, puppet dance, folk theatre, street drama, screening of documentaries based on the Liberation War, children's art competition, recitations and the last but not the least showcasing of a bio-documentary charting the evolution of the Haat.
Chhobir Haat transformed itself into a vibrant meeting ground for singers, instrumentalists, actors, theatre performers, film-makers, paving the way for a democratic traffic by conflating a formal diversity of cultural expressions with activism. Value judgment, it seems, has never been considered as a defining principle of their project; ones who gathered here to be part of an ongoing programme(s), have done so to celebrate artistic production with a non-judgmental eye.
Chhobir Haat projected itself to be more of a reservoir for culture as a whole than simply confining itself to art praxis and artistic discoursing in isolation. Keeping this premise firmly in view, over the last ten years the Haat remains steadfast in its efforts to contribute to a cultural clime that is proactive in its role of transforming society by either expressing its solidarity with or actively initiating activities immersed in the spirit of this vision.
As part of this mission Haat arranged interactive shows highlighting the creative process of art under the banner of spontaneous art process. The Haat organized joint exhibition by artists from Tripura and Bangladesh under the title of Indo-Bangla Artists Camp that held artists' workshops, Friday meetings, kite festivals; took part in social activities to address natural calamities of the likes of Sidr and Aila; lent shoulders to the protests raised against the demolition of Lalon's sculpture; demanded justice for war crimes when Shahbagh was turned into an epicenter for voicing rage against the government's attempt to reduce punishment of the quislings of the war of independence.
- DEPART DESK