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Rohingya arts and culture exhibition starts in Dhaka

  • Published at 06:33 pm September 19th, 2021
The visitors are seen looking at the traditional artworks representing
The visitors are seen looking at the traditional artworks representing key aspects of Rohingya memory, experience, and aspiration at the North South University (NSU) campus on Sunday, September 19, 2021 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The event will continue till September 25

The inaugural ceremony of an exhibition highlighting the arts and culture of the Rohingya people was held in Dhaka on Sunday.

Rohingya artisans of IOM’s Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre (RCMC) prepared the cultural objects and artworks, with the support of the Embassy of the Netherlands. 

The exhibition titled “Promoting and presenting Rohingya Heritage through Art” is being held at North South University and will continue till September 25.

As many as 100 cultural objects and artworks representing key aspects of Rohingya memory, experience, and aspiration are displayed at the exhibition, jointly organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and NSU’s Center for Peace Studies (CPS) of the South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance (SIPG).

The exhibiting collection -- handmade by the camp-living refugees in Cox’s Bazar -- is a part of an ongoing effort by the RCMC to comprehensively document and preserve the heritage of the Rohingya people. One of the reasons behind representing domestic tools in miniature is to educate children and adolescents about their cultural legacy through educational sessions. 

Some of the artworks at the North South University (NSU) campus on Sunday, September 19, 2021 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

“By showcasing the beauty and complexity of the Rohingya heritage and people, the exhibition aims to empower the community and ensure the continuity of its cultural heritage for future generations,” said IOM Bangladesh’s Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri. 

Of the exhibiting collection, the triptych of tapestries -- Myanmar Life, Camp Life and Future Life -- depicts the past, present, and future of the Rohingya community while scale models of traditional houses, boats and furniture conjure daily life in Arakan [present name Rakhine]. Farming, fishing, and domestic tools showcase traditional livelihoods and craft skills while videos from camp tell the stories of the artisans.

Rohingya Artisan Soidul Islam said: “We have wings but not feathers, we have minds but not hope. This opportunity has given us both to uphold our culture and heritage,” he mentioned. 

Md Shibbili, another RCMC Cultural Agent, shared his dream to bring to light all that is hidden in the Rohingya culture and history.

Visitors learning more about the Rohingya culture through their works at the exhibition on Sunday, September 19, 2021 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka TribuneMia Seppo, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said: “Ultimately, the biggest possible achievement of the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre and similar endeavors to preserve Rohingya heritage, both tangible and intangible, would be to ensure the continuity of cultural identity for Rohingya adolescents and children, strengthening ties to their homeland.”

Ambassador Anne Gerard van Leeuwen said: “Cultural expression is a way to reflect, and to heal and nurture the mind. The opportunity to engage in arts, crafts and other cultural practices should be accessible to all, especially to those who have lost their homes and remain forcibly displaced. By preserving the cultural heritage and identity of the Rohingya, the RCMC creates hope and strengthens mental wellbeing. Through organizing this exhibition first in Dhaka and then in Amsterdam, I hope that the plight of the Rohingya and the hospitality of Bangladesh will find increased recognition throughout the world.”

The collection being displayed at the photo gallery of NSU will be open for all from 9am to 5pm. 

After this exhibition, the collection will then travel to the Netherlands for another exhibition at the University of Amsterdam. A capsule collection will remain at NSU for their Rohingya studies program.

Some of the artworks at the North South University (NSU) campus on Sunday, September 19, 2021 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka TribuneProfessor Atiqul Islam, vice chancellor of North South University, said: “Organizing an exhibition of the artifacts of the Rohingya community is indeed a great initiative. It indicates how Bangladesh shows respect to the preservation of culture of the Rohingya.” 

The Centre for Peace Studies of NSU has been significantly contributing to producing and disseminating knowledge on the Rohingya issue through research and organizing relevant events, he added.

Currently nearly a million Rohingya refugees live in Cox’s Bazar camps, inhabiting challenging settlements with limited avenues for expression. 

The RCMC offers psychosocial support through art therapy, protection and skills development activities led by IOM practitioners and mental health officers.

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