Dhaka Art Summit


SKETCH ESSAY: DAS 2018 Art Mediation Training Workshop


by Lena Eriksson, Lecturer, Lucerne School of Art and Design, and DAS 2018 Art Mediation Workshop Leader


In September 2017, the Samdani Art Foundation placed an open call for Bangladeshi art enthusiasts (over 22 years old) to apply for the opportunity to participate in a unique art mediation programme. The idea of Art Mediation was very new to Bangladesh, but from a pool of 65 applicants, 25 art mediators were selected from a diversity of backgrounds, to be trained as art mediators by Dr. Rachel Mader and Lena Eriksson in a series of workshops between the 2 - 6 October 2017. The Art Mediators were selected on the basis of their interest in art and culture, availability, and commitment, for the duration of the Dhaka Art Summit 2018, rather than their academic background.

Dr. Rachel Mader and Lena Eriksson arrived in Dhaka on 1 October 2017 and began their 5-day long intensive workshop on the 2 October 2017 in the Seminar Room of the National Gallery, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.  Below is an illustrated essay of their time in Dhaka, during, and outside of the workshops they led. 


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On the first day, Rachel and I arrive half an hour late.  The room has already been set up for our workshop.  All the participants are waiting. On the second day we arrive on time, but most of the participants turn up late.  On the third day, we agree that we will henceforth start with the programme exactly half an hour after its announcement – one way or another, a sort of punctuality. 

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I have imported:  2kg potatoes, 900g pasta, 1.2kg cheese from the Swiss mountains, 8 medium onions, 3.6kg apples, 5 sticks of cinnamon, one can of pear syrup, 1 litre of cider, and 25 pinches of dried alpine flowers.  On the first evening we all cook, Alpine Herders Macaroni.  At least this is concrete. 

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Rachel has imported: 25 fondue forks, 2 fondue pans and 2.5kg of dark chocolate.  The fruit she buys from the dealer near the hotel.  The artist and workshop-participant Tarana has succeeded in negotiating a good price for her – which Rachel says, is very tough.  The chocolate fondue brings joy to everyone. 

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Dhaka Art Summit expects about 35,000 visitors per day.  I notice that many visit the exhibitions like they would a park.  Only, instead of trees, bushes and flowers, they are looking at art. 

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One can be as organized as possible, use all the foresight one has, plan everything to the last detail – but in the end, it is the traffic that dictates the agenda and the beat.  Tarana reveals that, in the mornings, it takes her two hours to get to work.  In the evenings, it can take twice as long for her to get home. 

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In Bangladesh, ‘Art Mediation’ is not a common term. 

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At night, merchants throw a tarpaulin over their booth and their goods, and tie them up together.  I am amazed that this is adequate protections from theft. 

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On the last day of our workshop, the seminar room is occupied, so we move into one of the vacant gallery spaces.  The improvised setting makes communication more difficult. To sit on the floor is bad for the bones.  Everything is strenuous, everything is more chaotic.  Nonetheless, the discussions are animated. 

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On the way back to the airport, our taxi travels along the railway line.  I see people travelling on the roof of a train, and I ask myself why on earth they do that.  I have so much more to understand about this country.