The following blog, though not related to BERDO, is about an entity that is central to life in Bangladesh (mine included).
They are gaudier than the gaudiest jamdanis, kitschier than the kitschiest Vladimir Tretchikoff and if the fact that they are mass produced nowadays is anything to go by, then they are indeed more Warholesque than Warhol himself. The obvious point of reference here are the rickshaws of Bangladesh. Often the quickest (and greenest) form of transport through the clogged, maze-like streets of Dhaka, these rickshaws also double-up as moving objects of art.
A typical Bangladeshi rickshaw is decorated with myriad embellishments – bright plastic flowers, metal tumblers, tacky streamers and multi-coloured pinwheels are the commonest accessories. Floral motifs and the latest Dhaliwood (when every region of the world has its own ‘wood’, can the Dhaka film-industry be far behind) movie posters are splashed across their vinyl upholstery. Tin-sheets at the rears of the rickshaws are adorned with paintings of movie posters, village scenes, flowers or political personalities.
At one level, rickshaw-art mirrors the undercurrents prevalent in Bangladeshi society. In the more religious south, floral designs are more popular and paintings do not generally contain human forms. The distance that separates the region from Dhaka and its film-industry can be another explanation for this phenomenon. In certain parts, portraits of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and symbols associated with Wahhabist sectarianism have proven to be popular at different times.
The more adorable part of this whole exercise, however, is how most of these paintings are an expression of things that cannot be, or rather are not possible given the present circumstances, in Bangladesh. Village huts often have Ferraris parked outside them. Expensive yachts ply on waterways. The Taj Mahal sits on lotuses. Actors in movie posters are always fair (in fact, a sizeable majority is pink). Exaggerated cleavages are flashed liberally. And vengeful bikini-clad females tote guns in scenes that look like they draw more inspiration from James Hadley Chase novels than from everyday life in Bangladesh.
Posted By Abhilash Medhi
Posted Sep 12th, 2009