Khujiya Dekho Tai…

Although the leather industry of Bangladesh is an important driving force of our economic growth, it has now been shifted away from the central city of Dhaka to Hemayetpur in Savar due to pollution. The Buriganga River and the Hazaribagh area are finally free from the clutches of decades of pollution. Home to the tannery arts and leather industry for 71 years, Hazaribagh is now undergoing a new era of being reimagined and restructured. Tanneries in the everchanging, historic Dhaka city’s Hazaribagh neighborhood are now abandoned lifeless structures. The daily hubbub of the workers has come to a standstill, everyone rushing to settle elsewhere. The novel experience of this ongoing pandemic has only added to that. Despite this upheaval and through this turbulence, in 2021, Brihatta Art Foundation started its journey at ‘Mukti Tannery – 1’.

At this time of stasis, the Find…Create….Express initiative was organized in an effort to breathe life back into the polluted environment of this tannery region. In this former tannery district along the riverbanks, combining art and artistry, the artists explored the elements with their minds, eyes. Stories left behind in this region of the river basin have lighted the artists’ paths in this project, allowing them to explore new forms for renewed hope. Being left behind does not mean abandoned and it’s as if the elements lay scattered filled with this desire to be picked up again. Processed or leftover hides, various tools and materials for preparing hides, the spaces used for preparations, the local marketplace for buying and selling raw hides, the people from all walks of life involved in the tannery arts economy and their experiences as they had to migrate; all this inspired the artists to create for this project.

Gathering on the open roof-top courtyard at Brihatta’s new space, with a language garden encased in foliage, with fruit, flowering, medicinal plants, and a vegetable garden, these artists sparked new narratives, telling stories, sharing tales, trading moments amongst themselves, weaving a web of new connections at the Mukti Tannery. The flow of life in art and creative thinking also involves discovering a new form. And at the edge of this busy city where Brihatta brings together art and artistry, perhaps one day this space will be bustling, resonating with the sounds of the mighty Buriganga’s currents, invigorating the people once again.

Bishwajit Goswami