Bangla literature is, in the eyes of many, underrated. Famous Bangalee authors have given us legendary characters and exceptional storylines that have captured the soul of Bangalee culture and captured the imagination of its readers.
Some famous stories in Bangalee literature have talked about people who have a deep and spiritual connection with jewellery. A picture is worth a thousand words and these authors spent multitudes and more in describing jewellery well enough to conjure images in the minds of the readers.
Salma Zakia Bristy and Zubaida Arzu Shoma wanted to craft these descriptions into reality through their exhibition 'Tanumodhya', which is being held at Alliance Française de Dhaka's La Galerie.
Bristy and Shoma were both students of Fine Arts at Dhaka University. Even though they are not from the same batch, they connected through their similar taste in art. Shoma admired Bristy's art and mutual friendship blossomed. The two have collaborated for the first time for an exhibition like this, even though each of them have participated in exhibitions independently in the past.
Salma Zakia Bristy's inspiration is not just the stories she has read, but rather the act of interpretation and imagination one must engage in while reading prose laden with imagery. There are some of the stories that are centred around jewellery like Rabindranath Tagore's 'Monihara' where the main character contemplates putting her life on the line to protect her jewels. People often tend to have a deep connection with their ornaments, especially if its the last remaining vestige of a time gone by.
"This exhibition is our interpretation of what those authors were describing in their fiction. We tried to relate the emotions of Bangalee literature through this show." said Salma Zakia Bristy who won the 'Grand Award' at the 18th Asian Art Biennale in 2018.
"Both of us would make ornaments in our spare time but recently, around six months ago, we started making jewellery for this exhibition," said Shoma.
During their teenage years books were their only form of escapism. Women use jewellery for many reasons, not just to look pretty. Oftentimes they are forced to wear these ornaments, like gold plated shackles instead of regalia and pageantry. Other times, widows are frowned upon and are kept from wearing their wedding jewellery.
The artists encapsulate the entire gamut of human emotion that is superimposed onto ornaments and jewellery.
The accurate colours, the accuracy in the ornaments, the emotions the author may have indicated, all these things required tons of research. Shoma and Bristy spent a considerable amount of time crafting and honing their pieces.
Most visitors of the exhibition were university students. They seemed pretty eager to understand stories behind this unusual form of art. All the jewelleries had captions along with them to point out where the art comes from and what it indicates.