In the last few years Bangladesh has become a new hub for art in the subcontinent. For decades it was plagued by conflicts, displacement and geo-political strife, but this political unrest has become the subtext for a new generation of artists. The charged atmosphere of the country has produced artists like Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman and Naeim Mohamedien; they have attempted to create new notions and associations of Bangladesh and simultaneously bring to light existing socio-political concerns. Of these artists I was drawn to Lipi’s work almost instinctively, becoming immediately interested in the discourse of marginality and representation produced by the voice of a female artist in this otherwise patriarchal and traditionalist region.
Originally from Gaibandha, Lipi has made Dhaka her home for the past 25 years. It was here that she studied at the Institute of Fine Art at the University of Dhaka and developed her artistic practice. Lipi’s work, is simply described as ‘cutting edge’, not, however, in the traditional use of the term. Engaging with mediums that range from painting, sculpture and video, her work is predominantly constructed of razor blades. The luminous stainless steal razors form the basic units of construction for Lipi’s arduous works, with which she recreates objects that range from life-sized beds and bathtubs to prams and lingerie. “Most of my work is related to personal issues of life,” says the artist. This concern is evident in works like My Daughter’s Cot, where the artist creates a metal cradle constructed of razor blades.
Lipi explains that during her childhood, a sterilised razor blade was probably the only tool available for childbirth.
Lipi’s work often questions the conventionalised aspects that dominate the lives of women in Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent in general. In addition to making references to tools used in delivering babies, Lipi associates the blades with the women in her life, the ones whose strength and persistence she admires. This year for the Dhaka Art Summit, Lipi will take on solo project based on her personal experiences as a woman. The work titled, A Room Of My Own documents the artist’s journey of a failed attempt at motherhood and the hope of another chance.
To me, Lipi’s oeuvre is a intriguing and poetic balance between the personal and political.
Dhaka might not be the first place to come mind if you’re thinking of taking a little getaway trip, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. This winter, Lipi took us through the streets of the city she now calls home. She takes us on an insider trip, through the swarming roads of Dhaka to the places she finds inspiring. From chic cafes to the erstwhile creative hub of Bangla Baazar, where writers and musicians once roamed, to contemporary museums, memorials and artists studios, Lipi leaves nothing out. We’ve handpicked five things for all you Artesign enthusiasts heading to Bangladesh for the Dhaka Art Summit this February.
1 The Bird’s Eye restaurant: An unperturbed space situated in the crowded area of Paltan, with spectacular views and an idyllic stillness hard to come across in the bustling streets of Dhaka.
2 Martyred Intellectuals’ Memorial at Rayerbazar: Designed by architects Farid U Ahmed and Jami Al Shafi the monument pays homage to the poets, writers, artists, engineers and intellectuals that were massacred during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.
3 Beauty Boarding: Established in 1949, the old motel-cum-restaurant situated at the end of the Bangla Bazaar street, on the verge of Paridas road, once was the hub for creative and progressive people in old Dhaka.
4 The National Museum: Inaugurated in 1913, the museum houses an important collection of objects and artefacts that depict Bangladesh’s history and culture both of the past and present.
5 Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts and the Bengal Art Lounge: Funded by the Bengal Foundation, the two galleries are an essential part of Dhaka’s cultural heritage. The galleries exhibit shows of music, art, drama, crafts and literature the organisations.