Bhumi community art project

Bhumi community art project

Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Courtesy of DBF/GB/Firoz Al Sabah, 2020.

November 28, 2022
Bhumi community art project

Bhumi, a community art project initiated during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in north-western Bangladesh in the village of Balia in Thakurgaon, will participate as an invited project at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022–2023. With the local markets closed and the community craftspeople left with no work, Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts, with the irreplaceable support of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF), devised this project to create a supportive ecosystem for the community during the lockdown through the creation of artworks in a collaborative process with artist Kamruzzaman Shadhin. At the height of the pandemic, the local businesses of artisans and craftsmen faced a big blow with a drastic decline in their two major sales of Eid (religious festival) and Pahela Boishakh (Bengali new year). Moreover, the countrywide lockdown halted the activities of art galleries and event spaces. During this trying time, Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF) wanted to engage in supporting these creative communities and “Bhumi” was hatched as a response to this desire.   

The Bangla word “Bhumi” means Earth or Land. Other than the literal meaning, the word “Bhumi” manifests several meanings that incorporate people, places, and nature. Expanding on these concepts of connectivity that the word entails, the project tried to create a statement of solidarity and connectedness through collective creative efforts during a time when we all felt uncertain and distant.

The project brought artists and craftsmen from four villages together from May to August 2020, exploring local materials and the history of traditional crafts and agricultural practices and their connection to the communities. The artworks were developed through open-ended exploration of ideas and spontaneous interaction between the artist, local farmers, artisans, and materials, resulting in the creation of several installations focused on Indigenous farming, human-land relationships, and observations on social and cultural changes in the communities. Traditional methods of farming gathered from Indigenous community elders were used to grow local plants and vegetables to create land art in one of the villages, while the other three focused on experimenting with traditional craft materials of bamboo, jute, and straw. Kamruzzaman Shadhin, following the nature of other Gidree Bawlee projects, collaborated in creative decision-making with local artisans and craftsmen in creating the artworks.

After 4 months of activity, the works were installed in the surrounding environment of Gidree Bawlee residency space in the village of Balia, Thakurgaon, turning into an open-air exhibition. The four projects were together within a single installation work, encompassing land and water; their connection with each other and the audience reverberated in the atmosphere.

“Bhumi” is a project that was able to bring together the local community, artisans, and artists during difficult times, it stands as an example of human resilience and creativity. In Kochi-Muziris Biennale, “Bhumi” will be presented in a single installation, combining all the works to re-focus/re-enact the complex connection between community, land, and the environment. Taking community and locality as the central theme, the exhibition will revisit the spirit of “Bhumi” and examine the shifting dynamics of this project born out of COVID isolation in a small locality, giving the work a scope to re-frame itself in a space far away from its origin, in these post-COVID times.

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Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation
November 28, 2022

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