Sunday, June 24
Art

Swap Your History Book for the Tenderly Curated Bengali Arts Tableaux

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Burrow in the art and spirit of teleological research.

Bengali Arts Tableaux is a set of stories, photographs, artwork, and ethnography constellating the rich, expansive, and under-represented Bengali art-world and history therein, as in South Asian culture there is no difference between these concepts.

Mahdi Chowdhury produced and authored the 62-page collection to provide a map of the artistic history for the Bengali diaspora. He was inspired by James Baldwin’s pursuit as an “emotional and artistic historian” to capture the core and the continuum of history as ancient and modern context, under a research-narrative where chronology consists of interlocking spines rather than following a linear tale. Chowdhury’s collection is like a blanket. It is warmth, weight, and introspection. Here, many–even outside the Bengali diaspora–will find comfort in truth in story.

For Chowdhury, he is especially speaking to the ones like himself. In the introduction, he writes:

“If you are a refugee, an immigrant, a proletariat, a woman-of-colour, a wretched-of-the-earth, or simply put, a body bearing the intersecting traces and sediments of a past for which you do not have a ready inventory for, history and art become essential instruments towards this Baldwinisian project for some kind of emotional and/or spiritual context.”

Chowdhury opens his research with the death of Rabindranath Tagore, a paragon of Bengali art and a figure upon which historical pain continues to be transposed. Next, a revival: Bengali New Year told through visual culture. History steadily continues through a spacious, gently rocking curation. In his reflection of Kazi Fahmida Farzana’s ethnographic and symbology studies on the drawings of Burmese Rohingya refugees, Chowdhury captures the spirit of his project: in the infinitesimally small or monumental, in the fragmented, and through the mirrors of cultural artifacts, we can excavate all of ourselves, over and over.

In this curation Chowdhury has dutifully patched a piece of universe back in place with a love that shows in every word and visual.

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