Written by Bansie Vasvani
Genocide as an endemic part of Bangladesh history is the subject of Wakilur Rahman’s large ink on paper triptych, Genocide (2009). Uneven blotches of shaded black ink are interspersed with small white patches, making abstraction a powerful tool to pay homage to scores of forgotten people reduced to mere specks of memory. Rahman navigates contemporary connections such as displacement and community formation by way of a complex route between the past and the present. Younger artists like Imran Hossain Piplu and Promotesh Das Pulak use weapons to reference history and denote the power of military rule long after independence. Piplu’s paintings that were a part of the first Bangladesh Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013—depict skeletal guns and weapons of war as excavated fossils—while Pulak’s sculptural representations present war masks, hand grenades and Kalashnikovs (rifles) studded with white Shola paper flowers. Akin to much contemporary art from the Middle East, revolutionary art is pivotal to a country in the throes of cultural, economical and political change. Objection to bloodshed and the need to compel reformation are repeatedly manifested through Piplu’s reference to the deep-rootedness of violence and Pulak’s ironic consecration of its weapons through his sculpture.