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1 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM

Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy

By Bipul K Debnath
Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy

Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) is an important cultural centre to promote art and culture of the country. The national academy of fine and performing arts was established on February 19, 1974. With the passage of time, the Academy, which is run by an executive council headed by the minister of cultural affairs, has been working to promote theatre, cinema, music, dancing, recitation, photography and fine arts. This week, The Weekend Independent talked to officials, teachers and others regarding the present and future activities of the national institution.

Ferdousi Sultana, mother of Ferdous Ahmed who studies in grade-9 and is a student of drawing at BSA in Segunbagicha, Dhaka, told this correspondent: “I used to come here myself. Once, I saw a banner for the drawing course at the pavilion and decided to enrol my son. He is good in art and I hope he will do better after completing the course. Of course, Shilpakala Academy is the most suitable place for art and culture. Art exhibitions are held here regularly and they are the best options to learn a lot about drawing.”

Regarding the history and structure of the institution, Liaquat Ali Lucky, director general of BSA, said: “The Academy has been working tremendously for preserving and maintaining historical and cultural activities all over the country since 1974. We are promoting every cultural element, protecting them from extinction and working for the development of arts both in the national and international arena. We have collected 13,000 songs that were about to disappear. BSA carries out its work through six different departments. They are theatre and film department; music, dancing and recital department; fine arts and photography department; training department; research and publishing department; and production department. There is a director for each department.”

“Our mission is to make a creative, humanitarian Bangladesh through enrichment of art and culture. We want to reach everyone and illuminate their inner beings. We have a film department, but it was not active. Nowadays, it is an active department. We are arranging different film festivals. We organise many festivals, trainings programmes and cultural activities. Besides promoting and practising art and culture, we also work for improving the skills of artists and performers, do research in different fields, organise workshops, seminars and discussions, and arrange short and long-term further training. We also provide monthly allowances to insolvent artists and arrange for one-time support, create opportunities for promising artists, organise various competitions in art and culture, present Shilpakala Award for extraordinary contribution in different fields, publish books, and send cultural groups abroad to represent Bangladeshi culture,” said the DG, who is in charge of administration at BSA.

“Shilpakala Academy has different projects to reach out to the people of Bangladesh. We are going forward with constructing new academy buildings in 64 districts. We have also taken an initiative to set up offices in 492 upazilas (sub-districts). Construction work has already been completed in some upazilas,” Lucky said about the Academy’s ongoing projects. “After taking over as director general, I have appointed 400 officials and workers. The recruitment process of 1,400 officials and staff at the upazila offices is going on. After that is done, we will have a great network among us.”

“We are also building an opera house on 21 acres of land at Hatirjheel in the capital. After completing it, we can tell the world with pride that we have a modern opera house,” Lucky added.

About developing the Academy’s infrastructure, Asaduzzaman Noor, minister for cultural affairs, said, “We have our branches in 64 districts, but most of them do not have their own buildings. However, construction work for an open stage, rehearsal room, makeup room and office room are going on in 16 upazilas. In future, we will construct buildings in all the upazilas. We have built new auditoriums in Barisal, Khulna and Rangpur districts. We have taken up a project of around Tk 3 billion in Chittagong division. We hope the project will start soon.”

About the challenges of creating interest in art and culture among the new generation, Noor, a popular cultural activist, said: “We can say we are making new infrastructures. But people need to use them. To create an audience is also an urgent issue for us now. Regarding this, we met with education ministry officials and had an elaborate discussion with them. Primarily, our district level dance and singing instructors are working at some selected educational institutions and teaching the students. We doing this pilot project and keenly observing the interest among the students, guardians and teachers. Of course, there is great curiosity among the children and so we have already given the schools some musical instruments such as tabla and harmonium. But some parents think it may hamper their children’s education, and some teachers are not interested at all. Overall, we want to see success of our pilot project. If we find success, we will extend it.”  

“From our ministry, we are sponsoring cultural programmes outside the capital city in collaboration with Shilpakala Academy. We do not have any centres overseas yet, as we do not have cultural sections in our embassies. But we have proposed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to open cultural centres at our foreign missions, especially in large cities like Kolkata, New Delhi, London and New York where a lot of expatriate Bangladeshis live, and in countries that have interest in Bangladeshi culture. The good news is they are considering our proposal,” the minister added.

About training activities of BSA, M Shawkat Faroque, director, Department of Training, said: “Sixty-three district centres have 10 instructors each and they are conducting training courses according to our modules. Basically, we provide training on music, dance, recitation, drama and art. We arrange short-term training programmes on national days. We have also started a two-day orientation workshop for trainers. Besides, we give importance on protecting traditional musical instruments like sharad, sitar, chaki and others.”

Sarker Zia Uddin Ahmmed, instructor, Department of Fine Arts at BSA, said: “From the 2016-17 session, we have started two types of courses on fine arts_ one-year foundation course for 4 to 7 year olds, and three-year basic course for those aged 8 to 16. Classes are held twice a week, on Fridays and Saturdays. Our instructors are fine arts graduates from private and public universities. We are getting huge response from students and their parents. Besides the art courses, we have a plan to start courses on music, dance and drama.”

M Muniruzzaman, director of the fine arts department, added: “Actually we are working for promoting the arts. For that, we arrange various national and international programmes for young and new artists around the year. We have six galleries where solo and group exhibitions are held regularly. For solo exhibitions, we do not charge any money. Artists have to apply to us. After considering their works, we allow them to use the gallery. But group exhibitions come under our rent criteria. We are going to establish a printmaking studio from where artists can print their works free of cost.”

The research and publication department of BSA publishes magazines and books on a regular basis. Utpal Kumar Das, director of the department, said: “We have magazines in Bangla and English where we publish articles related to our art and culture. Besides that, we take part in many book fairs with our huge collection of books. We also have a library where readers can get knowledge about fine arts. We have to accelerate our research activities. For that, we have taken a plan to collect drawings on Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by  children as well as different artists.”

The Academy has an ethnic minority cell that is working hard to promote the culture and traditions of the country’s ethnic minorities. SM Shamim Akter, assistant director of ethnic minority cell, said: “We are working to promote, protect and preserve the culture of our ethnic minorities. We have ethnic minority groups in 33 districts, and only seven districts have ethnic minority cultural institutes. We are trying to expand our working network by establishing modern cultural centres in the other districts where there are ethnic minorities. But we are carrying out our activities amidst limited recourses. We are arranging many programmes to highlight our ethnic cultures both nationally and internationally. We have sent artistes, mostly dancers, from ethnic communities to several countries abroad. Besides that, we have published two books, ‘Oral Literature of Ethnic Minorities’ and ‘Ethnic Community in the Tea Gardens’. We have also made an audiovisual documentary on their culture.”

“We have an ethnic minority heritage museum, which is open from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays, on the ground floor of the music building at our Dhaka centre. Visitors can see musical instruments, household items, clothes and ornaments of our ethnic minorities there. We also arrange a festival from February to April where ethnic groups can sell their products and share their ways of life. We arrange a 15-day workshop on ethnic dances from May to April where we invite instructors from respective ethnic minority communities. We have already formed a Dhaka- based ethnic dance group with Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Garo and Santal artistes and they perform at state programmes in the capital. We are trying to form more ethnic dance groups. Visitors can get any updates on our website” n

Photos: BSA website.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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