For most Dhaka city dwellers, rickshaw art is a familiar sight. Back in the 1950s, rickshaw factories were set up in the country where the vehicles were first painted with a unique motif.
The art became popularised from the 1970s onward, and not before long, local culture made its way onto the tin sheets based on heroes and heroines of the film industry, flowers and animals.
However, in the digital era, less and less of this beloved art can be seen on the backs of rickshaws. While a few companies are finding ways to commercialise rickshaw art - selling rickshaw art on tea cups, jewellery, sandals, etc - a group of students took to TSC tea stalls.
The vivid colours and design of the ever-beautiful rickshaw art have been recently spotted at Dhaka University's TSC premises. The tea stalls there now stand to showcase one of the most authentic representations of Dhaka city life: rickshaw art.
The initiative was mainly spearheaded by Miss Universe Bangladesh 2019 Shirin Akter Shela, who is studying physics at the University of Dhaka. Three of her friends - Shemanto Saha, Zerin Sinthee, and Tasmit Afiyat Arny - joined in too. They are also from the same university; Shemanto Saha is studying physics while Zerin Sinthee and Tasmit Afiyat Arny are from different departments of the Faculty of Fine Art.
"The rickshaw industry is a form of neo-romanticism that has emerged in Bangladesh. Screen printing and other similar technologies are impeding this type of hand-painted items.
If we think of Western European countries, they have bakery shops all over the country where their art and culture are heavily displayed or used. So, we have taken the initiative to paint on tea stalls to display our own art forms like rickshaw art," Shela told The Business Standard.
"We are using the method of Gazir Pot art," added Shela.
The quartet hired professional rickshaw artists from Old Dhaka for the job and joined hands.
Because of the group's effort, everyone can enjoy the beauty and nostalgia of rickshaw art now at TSC with a piping hot cup of tea at hand.
The tea vendors of TSC are very happy about this initiative. "The place looked very dirty. But thanks to the painting, the place has become very attractive now," said Swapan, lovingly called Swapan Mama, one of the eldest tea shopkeepers at TSC.
Students coming for a cup of tea are also enjoying the sudden change in the ambience. "Littering has been banned in TSC for a long time. But people were not fully aware of it. I hope this time people will stop making the place dirty seeing this colourful transition," said Shihab Hasan, a student of International Relations.
Behind the initiative, the group has a vision.
"People say TSC is the heart of Dhaka. The spark of cultural and political movements came from here in the past. So, if we can change the colour of TSC, we can change the colour of our society," Shela added.
The four artists plan to take this initiative countrywide.