Examining Dhaka and its environmental make-up
Goethe-Institut Bangladesh, the cultural wing of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, marked down 2010 for programmes centred on ecology under the rubric 'Culture and Environment'. Within this framework local as well as international artists and professionals from various fields were invited to share their ideas and were asked to develop projects centred on Dhaka and the environmental challenges the city poses. One such early project was presented by Murshida Arzu Alpana, an expatriate painter living in Germany for the last twenty years. Her paintings and installations in the exhibition 'Drinking Bottle Water and Breathing Dust Only' provided just one out of many perspectives on the city's plight brought on by environmental degradation.
The exhibition was one of many such initiatives that the institute helped to bring to fruition within the framework of a programme called 'Artistic Environment,' a pro-active art initiative that saw its implementation in phases in cooperation with local artists. 'Artistic Environment' was just one part of a year-long 'green' programme which also showcased works on deforestation by artist Gulshan Hossain and on traffic congestion by Shulekha Chowdhury.
Further initiatives on the same topic included two workshops with renowned photographers from Germany who focused on 'Urban Mutations' and 'Recycling.' The programme also saw the launch of the German Academic Exchange Service-Alumni book publication entitled, 'Man and Water,' as well as screenings of international and Bangladeshi environmental documentaries among many other initiatives focused on ecology.
Through an inter- and trans-disciplinary perspective on important environmental issues, Goethe-Institut's awareness building programmes, which they dubbed as 'cultural mediation', embraced art, science, literature, film, architecture and photography, and in turn attempted to address the 'gravity of the environmental problems of our times.'
In cooperation with Dhaka Art Center, Britto Arts Trust and other Dhaka-based artists-run organizations, a fortnight-long festival entitled, 'Dhaka safe and Sound' was launched on October 18th. Hosted simultaneously at the Dhaka Art Center and Goethe-Institut in Dhanmondi, painting exhibitions, performance arts, installations, photographs, theatre performance and architectural project combined with lectures, workshops, film, literature and music events, created an atmosphere of interactivity and knowledge-sharing. Goethe-Institute has long been involved in architectural issues and related researches on Dhaka and the festival was an occasion to bring in a German urban planner and an architect whose innovative project involving Dhaka cognoscenti led to some interesting outcome on how the inhabitants want their city to be transformed to acquire an environmentally sound and livable urban milieu.
The festival was jointly inaugurated by artist Professor Rafiqun Nabi and Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star.