Branding Bangladesh: Bantora Kun, the tiger
Bantora Kun is a mascot representing Bangladesh and since its launch it is making its round in Bangladesh-Japan business circuits. Conceived as an insignia of ambassadorial scope it saw its launch in September 2015. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed officially inaugurated the mascot at an event at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka which a group of Japanese corporate houses in the city put together to promote Bangladesh 'as a preferred destination for Japanese investment.' The tiger was an outcome of years of mediation on the part of artist Nazir Hossain, aka Tiger Nazir, whose paintings centering on motifs of the tiger finally led to the three-dimensional model.
The stuffed mascot has its precursor in images of the Royal Bengal tiger that appeared in a series of oil on canvas works by Nazir. Executed in the vein of folk art these paintings are responsible for bringing the artist under the radar of Shiro Sadoshima, the former Japanese ambassador to Bangladesh, who hand-picked Nazir for an exclusive showcasing in Setouchi Triennale in Japan. At that time a Bangladesh festival was afoot and Sadoshima was planning an exhibition comprising various genres of art from the popular front of Bangladesh 'culture industry' with the support of Dhaka's artist community and the cognoscenti.
Early in his career, Nazir could see the symbolic potential the tiger held out to an artist of his inclination working within the linguistic discipline of the popular arts. He revelled in the mass appeal of the tiger motif in reconfigured folksy forms in back to back solo exhibitions over the last five or so years. Hence Bantora Kun is at once an invocation of the country's folkloric inheritance and a reference to the pristine mangrove forest in the South which is now under threat as the government is poised to build a coal-powered power plant near the area.
Bantora is a compound word in which 'Ban' stands for Bangladesh and 'tora' is Japanese for 'tiger', while Kun is Japanese for sibling. Bantora Kun will work as Yuru-chara, a Japanese term for mascot characters that are customarily used to stabilize the image of an enterprise or a country. Yuru-charas are created to promote a place, region, event, organization or business in Japan. Bantora Kun, thus, sends out a positive image of the country into the world.
Faced with an audience, this dancing mascot performs its designated ritual. It pronounces its place of origin which is the Sundarbans. Following inauguration, it was trusted with the responsibility to communicate a message of friendship to a select audience including the Prime Minister of Japan, corporate houses as well as artists and poets in Japan.
Bantora Kun also dazzled the panel of judges in a mascot competition held in Japan the same year clinching the award for the top position. Among mascots from some 80 countries Bantora Kun, Bangladesh's new ambassador to the world, scored the highest, fuelling the enthusiasm of people who like to envisage this riverine country as the future economic hub in South Asia.
- DEPART DESK