B H C P R O J E CT S P A C E
Baridhara, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Open by appointment: email BHCProjectSpace@hotmail.com
A new public artwork in the east end of London is hard to ignore. Lit up at night and vibrant during the day, a steel scaffolding one storey high covered in saree fabric spells out the word 'Bangla' in Bengali script. The piece reflects the work of citizen researchers from the British Bangladeshi community, who have been exploring the role people in Tower Hamlets played in the independence of Bangladesh and the legacy of the events of 1971 on the local community.
Ruhul Abdin and Sadiqul Islam Shehab of Paraa worked with material collected by these citizen researchers to create this collaborative piece of artwork as part of the National Portrait Gallery (London) CITIZEN UK initiative.
Who are citizen researchers? They’re local community members invited to explore neighbourhood and national archives and collections and share their own memories and material to tell the stories of migrant communities from their area, in collaboration with Tower Hamlets Local History Library.
To commemorate 50 years of Bangladeshi independence, the new public artwork has been installed at the Tower Hamlets Idea Store in Whitechapel, London. It signifies the diverse people that make up Tower Hamlets Bangladeshi community. Copies of the material (text, photographs, maps, images, newspaper articles etc.) gathered by citizen researchers are visible at street level, plastered on a sort of community bulletin board— creating an outdoor public display/museum/archive.
Covering the letters in saree fabric references the fabric industry which employed many Bengali workers in Tower Hamlets (and is still a prominent industry in Bangladesh supplying many UK clothing retailers). Each letter is wrapped in a different colour inspired by Biman Mullick’s design for the first set of stamps representing Bangladesh as a new nation in 1971.
The artwork will remain permanently in the borough of Tower Hamlets at the Idea Store, as a reminder of the stories connected to 1971 and the Bangladeshi community of East London.
Paraa is an architecture, design, urban research studio based in Niketon, Dhaka, led by architect Kazi Aarefin and Ruhul Abdin since 2014. Paraa works in a collaborative process with diverse communities.
Ruhul Abdin, (b. 1985, Maulvibazar, Bangladesh) is an artist and researcher based between Dhaka and Bow in Tower Hamlets, UK. He has a Masters in Urban Development Planning from the Bartlett, University College, London (2012).
Sadiqul Islam Shehab, (b. 1995, Bogra, Bangladesh) is a practicing architect with a passion for urbanism and visualisations based in Dhaka.
Citizen UK is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Art Fund.
Images: From top: by Ruhul Abdin, Saree Squad © Phil Maxwell, ‘BANGLA’ by Kois Miah
Stages of Melancholia
Drawing, etching, painting (using brush and hand), stitching; acramin (pre-treatment agent for garment dyeing), water colour, pen, pencil, tea, ink, yarn on various types of paper
Since the age of five, I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Too early to have such a disease but I was lucky it was found at an early age.
Interestingly, what my doctor failed to tell me, is that this is not a singular problem. With this disease, comes a lot of others.
There were/are days when I feel empty. Everything is perfect, but I am not. There are days when it is hard to get up and move. There are days when it is hard to function like a normal person. I shut down, I become a shell, I become a robot who just continues to work because I have to. I stop contacting people, I feel like throwing away my phone when it rings. I want to escape from people.
It's been only a few years since I finally learned that this is what depression feels like. And this is what hypothyroidism brings along. Since childhood I suffered but I never knew. All the time I kept questioning myself: 'Why are you like this?'
These works are part of my journey with an autoimmune disease that has engulfed my entire life. At each stage of my life, I encounter different problems while carrying along the old ones.
Each of the works here has its own series but all are related to my mental and physical health.
When any part of my body suffers, I try to imagine the pain, the nerves, the twists and turns inside me and try to document them. It takes several days or weeks to make one drawing as the lines only take shape when I go through a particular phase.
Ruxmini Choudhury, (b. 1992, Rajshahi) is an artist and researcher based in Dhaka. She has a BFA Art History, University of Dhaka (2014).
Shut out of Site, in parallel with Dwip Gallery
Painting (acrylic on paper)
Manan Morshed has excelled as a photographer, illustrator, graphic designer, entrepreneur, activist and organiser.
While still in school he made work (published in various magazines and in the form of political posters) during the late 80’s early 90's autocratic regime in Bangladesh. He worked at The Daily Star for 19 years (2001-2018), Depart, an art magazine as Art Director, provided art consultancy to Steps Towards Development (a national non-governmental organisation that promotes gender equality, human rights and good governance) and various other non-government organisations since 2000.
Since 2018 he has chosen to focus on his practice as an artist. As curator and art critic Mustafa Zaman writes “Manan's practice has recently swerved away from the familiar as he has taken [a] dive into the unfamiliar.”
The work shown here was made c. 2013 -2015 and represents his experimentation with less figurative approaches to painting. The work at Dwip gallery (more than 80 pieces) is his most recent, and is almost entirely abstract.
This is our first ‘parallel show’. BHC Project Space is committed to working in collaboration with other art spaces/initiatives, creating more opportunities for makers/artists and expanding the opportunity for work to be experienced, especially since the ‘art scene’ largely exists in the University belt on ‘the other side’ of Dhaka.
Manan Morshed, (b. 1976) is an artist based in Dhaka. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (1999) from the Institute of Fine Arts (now Faculty of Fine Arts) University of Dhaka.