In the news: Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka’s ‘Strokes Against Violence’ art camp calls for united awareness

Featuring three of the leading female artists in Bangladesh, an online art camp titled ‘Strokes Against Violence’, organised by Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka was virtually held on Wednesday [9 December] – marking the 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender-based violence which reflected on the necessity of mass awareness regarding the issue.

Noted painter Afroza Jamil Konka, eminent indigenous artist Kanak Chanpa Chakma and leading performance artist Nazia Andaleeb Preema showcased their mesmerising crafts based on the topic of violence against women at the event, which was moderated by Zonta’s Advocacy Chairperson Tootli Rahman and also joined by Dr Simeen M Akhter, President of Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka. News agency United News of Bangladesh (UNB) was the media partner of the camp, while Gallery Cosmos was the gallery partner.

“I’ve been painting women for a long time. When I was at a very tender age, I saw my mother struggling to raise her four daughters as the situation was very hard for her in the male dominated society. I closely saw her joys and sorrows and she was very joyful when she used to be with us, to make us feel happy. Those things encouraged me to paint women and all their emotions,” painter Afroza Jamil Konka, the inaugural artist of the camp, shared her thoughts behind drawing paintings of women.

Answering a question on why she thinks child marriage should be banned, Konka said, “I draw a lot of paintings on child marriage as I think it’s the root of all the violence against us, women. A little girl, when she is supposed to go to school and explore, enjoy and learn about life – society pushes her to do something which she is neither capable of nor ready to take over. A healthy and educated mother is a blessing for our society, and that can only be assured if we can stop child marriages.”

Konka went on explaining her artwork featuring a red background and subjects, which portrays a little girl moving towards her in-law’s house, holding her little doll and leaving her friends behind in a gloomy atmosphere where a number of crows are lurking around.

Answering Tootli Rahman’s question regarding the significance of crows in her painting, she said, “Crows symbolise opportunists (like those who pressurise families of the brides for money) of our society, wait for the chance to harm.”

She thanked Zonta and Tehmina Enayet, director of Gallery Cosmos, for hosting the camp. 

The second artist of the event was Kanak Chanpa Chakma from Rangamati, one of the most noted artists of Bangladesh, who portrays the struggling lives of the indigenous communities in Bangladesh and the endless sufferings of women. The painting she crafted at the event featured a woman lying on the ground, covered with paper collages and surrounded by lizards.

Explaining her artworks, Kanak said, “I used paper-cuttings because many newspapers write about violence against women, but women don’t get justice most of the time.” Describing the lizards, Kanak said: “Lizards are the symbol of abusers in our society. They are scary, as they suck the blood out of people – similarly, abusers take the happiness out of women.” 

“The abusers should get serious punishment so that such violence is never committed again. The justice system has to be stricter too, and I think artistic ventures like this art camp can also raise awareness, which I’m glad to be a part of,” Kanak said, thanking Zonta and Gallery Cosmos for the event.

The showstopper of the camp was award-winning Bangladeshi visual artist Nazia Andaleeb Preema, who in her performance art titled ‘Guilt Quilt’, cut her attires in a performative gesture with blades and scissor to showcase the vulnerable approach towards women’s bodies, and put the cut-pieces of her clothing on a crib that showcased the crime women have been subjected to. The entire performance took place at Cosmos Atelier71 in Cosmos Centre, Malibagh in the capital.

“First of all, I want to thank Zonta and UNB for the opportunity as this is my first performance after eight months due to the pandemic which totally shattered all of us, and it was quite a relief for me and I feel alive again,” Preema said.

“Women are the continuous and worst sufferers of the society, which didn’t change even during this pandemic – and this performance titled ‘Guilt Quilt’ is actually a tribute to all women as we’re all in this together. We all are guilty to mankind that we cannot make this world a better place to live. I hope during this time we introspect and reflect on our wrongdoings, and I plead to Zonta and all its members all over the world to please stand for violence against women,” Preema said at the camp.

From November 26, marking the international day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka organised multiple webinars and initiated several projects across the country till December 10 marking the Human Rights Day, along with 35,000 Zontians in 65 countries.

The theme for this year’s campaign was “Orange the world – fund, respond, prevent the collect”.

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