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Samdani Art Foundation presents sixth edition of Dhaka Art Summit

February 3–11, 2023

The Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) is a global, non-profit platform for study and exhibition for South Asian-inspired art and architecture. DAS reconsiders how we view various artistic genres in a local and global perspective, with a primary focus on Bangladesh. DAS is held every two years at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and was established in 2012 by the Samdani Art Foundation—which continues to organize the festival—in partnership with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The sixth edition of the festival, Bonna, is the first to have a Bangla subtitle after the fifth edition, Seismic Movements, which attracted approximately 500,000 attendees in nine days in February 2020.

DAS 2023 examines how we acquire and shape our vocabularies to comprehend the world around us as well as the potential for misinterpretation that can occur when we attempt to use these vocabularies in unfamiliar contexts. Depending on how and where a word travels, it can change from having positive to negative connotations and vice versa. Through the eyes of those who live in Bangladesh, adjacent to the sea and rivers, underneath the storm systems, feeling the wind and rain, they see weather and water as shapers of history and culture as well as metaphors for life in general. This is further investigated by looking at how Bengali youngsters experience these phenomena—both physically and through the oral traditions that have been passed down through the generations. The goal is to expand transcultural empathy by seeing past the limitations of translation, which sometimes make it difficult to explain the many ways we navigate the world. Eyes have storms, and storms have eyes. We are capable of experiencing a rush of feelings while also only shedding a few tears. Storms are given names, and words used to describe weather are often used to describe human emotions. How can the tale of a crisis be told while fostering hope?

In Bangladesh, the term for flood, “Bonna,” is also used as a popular name for girls. In Bangladesh, a flood does not automatically equate to the solitary connotation of “disaster” that is the prevalent idea. Instead, the DAS notion of Bonna questions binary distinctions between male and female, adult and child, and necessity and excess. Bonna, the young girl from Bangladesh, is given the opportunity to speak to the world through DAS 2023, which invokes and interprets her as a complex symbol-system that is indigenous, personal, and at the same time universal, embodied non-human reversal of how storms, cyclones, tsunamis, stars, and all environmental crises and discoveries are named. Bonna asks why the words for weather are gendered and what the relationship between gender, the built environment, and climate change

The idea behind DAS 2023 is to listen to Bangladesh’s lands, seas, and inhabitants as they tell tales and envision futures in which people value the opinions of the planet and non-human intelligences over time and dates. In DAS 2023, the dual paradox of how floods and their effects may be (mis)understood is discussed along with the power of water. Bonna is particularly interested in the impact of translation, specifically how Bangladeshi conceptions of life confront people who might have interpreted the flood and its effects incorrectly and for those who are currently facing comparable climatic issues around the world. By extension, the Bangladeshi artist and researcher Shawon Akand expands upon mud as a metaphor for the adaptive power of Bengalis; mud can be hard as stone when baked under the summer sun, a fertile bed for crops during the harvest season, and liquid during the monsoon, all without losing its essence. 

DAS is a continually unfolding story imagined by hundreds of contributors, and this edition will include over 120 artists, architects, and writers, over 60% Bangladeshi, and over 50% producing new work for the show. Bonna is the fifth chapter under the Artistic Direction of Chief Curator Diana Campbell and is complemented by a series of intersecting exhibitions including the Samdani Art Award in partnership with Delfina Foundation and curated by Anne Barlow (Director, Tate St. Ives), To Enter the Sky curated by Sean Anderson (Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director at Cornell University’s Department of Architecture), দ্বৈধ (a duality) curated by Bishwajit Goswami (Assistant Professor, Department of Drawing and Painting, University of Dhaka) with research support from Muhammad Nafisur Rahman (Assistant Professor of Communication Design at the School of Design, College of DAAP, University of Cincinnati) in collaboration with Brihatta Art Foundation, and Very Small Feelings, co-curated by Campbell and Akansha Rastogi (Senior Curator, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art) with Ruxmini Choudhury (Assistant Curator Samdani Art Foundation), and a transnational folklore research team with contributions from Kanak Chanpa Chakma and other indigenous thought leaders connecting traditions across Bangladesh and Northeast India. 

Samdani Art Foundation and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi collaborated on the production of Very Small Feelings. This institutional exchange, which is more than just an exhibition and will visit KNMA in July 2023 as a part of the institution’s Young Artists of our Times program, experiments with transgenerational artistic engagement modes. Developing this exhibition into a platform to highlight the works of younger artists’ voices, under-represented art historical narratives from both Bangladesh and India, and create dialogues with works of select international artists and voices is a first for two major contemporary art institutions from South Asia. It is unique that Bangladesh and India are facilitating such extensive exchanges between modern artists through the creation of exhibitions, books, joint commissions, and loans of artworks, with plans to expand this connection beyond 2023. Very Small Feelings, along with the larger Summit, aims to connect us closely to our “inner child” as we learn how to navigate the new world that has developed since DAS 2020. A drama in and of itself, as well as a trailer to present Bonna to audiences connected to the internet all over the world, the Gidree Bawlee Foundation for the Arts created this film for DAS 2023 in partnership with KNMA and the World Weather Network.

More details about DAS curatorial and artistic contributions will be released over the coming months. 

Even though DAS is not a biennale, Bonna hopes that whenever they are born, Natasha from Singapore and EVA from Limerick would become friends. Similar to how clouds gather in the sky to replenish the earth, we encourage our visitors to go to the Kochi Biennale and the Sharjah Biennial, which both start on February 7. These events serve as spaces that foster the emergence of fresh dialogues, perspectives, and alliances that enable us to create better futures.

Reflecting on the upcoming edition, Nadia Samdani MBE, Co-Founder and President of SAF and Director of DAS: “We’re incredibly excited to bring the Dhaka Art Summit back to life after three years. Offering a local and international platform for Bangladeshi artists, the Summit has launched so many artistic careers over the years, with many of its commissions still traveling or acquired by institutions all over the world. 2023 is an opportunity to create new opportunities for artists and watch their journeys continue to grow.” 

Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy
14, 3 Segun Bagicha Road
Dhaka – 1000
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