A darkened, elevated stage. The bell rings and the lights switch on, and you notice two figures stand up and begin to perform. Through song and dance, humorous punchlines and dramatic dialogue, a section of a Jatra (popular folk theatre) is performed; an age-old story in a completely new background.
This is only one of the many performances being brought to audiences in Dhaka through the first Bangladesh Cultural Festival 2016, organised by Shilpakala Academy and being performed on its Nandon Stage. With the participation of diverse groups and companies from all 64 districts of the country, this festival was inaugurated at the beginning of the new year and is set to continue till January 18.
Despite the duration of the programme, spanning to almost three weeks, there is a full house at the Shilpakala Academy almost every day. Every performance is unique and one never knows what to expect – be it Baul songs, dance drama or a wide-ranging repertoire of various singing troupes. Even within the productions, there is an amazing range of artistic expression, starting with dance dramas on the struggle for independence to indigenous folk dances, as well as more modern takes on stories of patriotism, liberation and belonging.
According to Liaquat Ali Lucky, director general of Shilpakala Academy: “One of the main aims of this festival is to take artists from the grassroots level and put them on a national stage. We have been preparing for this for the last two years, and all the Shilpakala Academies at the district levels have been practicing their very best performances that showcase their local culture and heritage. Almost 5000 to 6000 people are participating in this year’s festival.”
As a result, on one single platform, audiences are being able to get a taste of the indigenous artistry that thrives across the country, starting from the Marma “Pradeep Nach” (dance with lit oil lamps) from Bandarban to the “Michael Geeti” (songs of poet and dramatist Madhushudhan Dutt) from Jessore.
Another stunning part of the festival is the sheer number of young performers, including a quantity of children groups for dance, drama and music, who were all very excited to be showcasing their talents on a national platform.
One of them was eight-year-old Almas Khan, who travelled from Pirojpur to sing at the festival. With a joyful smile on his flushed round face, he said: “I was really happy to be able to come here today. My father taught me how to sing and he is very proud of me.”
According to culture minister Asaduzzaman Noor, who inaugurated the festival: “Nourishing and encouraging new and diverse talents, like the ones we have seen, is a crucial part of this festival. We need to allow people to be able to express their creativity, especially children, instead of simply being buried under the mountains of schoolwork and tuition classes they are subjected to.”
Source: Dhaka Tribune