The long-awaited 19th edition of the Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh, the longest-running international art biennale in Asia, was finally inaugurated at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) on Thursday in Dhaka. The term 'finally' defines the long-anticipated pause since the 18th edition of this gala art rendezvous back in 2018, as the 19th edition was delayed for four years, after being postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which had to be rescheduled three times.

Dedicated to the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the exhibition was virtually inaugurated by Prime minister Sheikh Hasina who joined from her official Ganabhaban residence in the capital. The physical inauguration ceremony was held at the National Theatre Hall of BSA, which was joined by Cultural affairs secretary Md Abul Monsur, jury board member and noted Polish art critic Jaroslaw Suchan and the BSA Director General and Chief Coordinator of 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh-2022 Liaquat Ali Lucky, among others. The inauguration ceremony was presided over by State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid.

Inaugurating the month-long art extravaganza, Prime minister Sheikh Hasina said the government is taking measures to develop and promote the grassroots arts and culture. "We're taking steps to flourish and present the art thoughts, knowledge and capacity of the grassroots cultural-minded community before the people of the country by setting up Shilpakala academy throughout the country," she said.

PM Hasina said her government has been promoting the country's languages, culture, artworks, drama, film and creativity. Since the formation of the Bangladesh Awami League government in 1996, her government has prepared a master plan for the development of Shilpakala Academy, she said, mentioning that the National Theatre, Experimental Theatre, Studio Theatre, Music and Dance Auditorium, Fine Arts Auditorium and Open Stage were built in the Academy as part of the master plan of her government. Construction of three more auditoriums is also underway, and the PM also mentioned that the government has constructed new buildings for Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in 64 districts and 493 upazilas, which means the government wants to take the services for raising cultural activities to the people at the grassroots level.

"We've been working for the socio-economic development on the one hand and taking steps to develop their artistic minds because we've making endeavours to develop our own culture," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said at the inauguration ceremony of 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh-2022. She then released a commemorative postage stamp, a first-day cover and a data card on the occasion of the 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh.

Regarding the flagship art event of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, BSA Director General Liaquat Ali Lucky said: "The longest-running art event in Asia for the past four decades, the Asian Art Biennale is an important platform for the convergence of regional and international art. We invited 125 countries to participate in this biennale. 493 artists from 114 countries, including Bangladesh - as we had a dream to make this event with more than 100 nations across the world, beyond Asia, to mark the birth centenary of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On behalf of BSA, I thank all participating countries, artists and jurors, and congratulate all awardees, and especially our Prime Minister for her gracious virtual presence among us."

State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid said, "Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, cultural practices have developed at the grassroots level. The Father of the Nation used to say that great literature and art cannot exist apart from people, and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has been relentlessly working to spread art and literature in society through exclusive events such as the Asian Art Bienniale, which has become an important event at both home and abroad for the last four decades."

From the international Jurors, Polish art critic Jaroslaw Suchan reflected on the theme of the Biennale, and how artists stage their protests on their issues through art, and then eminent Bangladeshi artist Rafiqun Nabi, also the President of the 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh-2022 Jury Board, announced the names of the awardees at the ceremony. State Minister KM Khalid handed over awards to the recipients on behalf of the Prime Minister.

Artists Sushanta Kumar Adhikary and Yasmin Jahan Nupur from Bangladesh and Harald Schole from the Netherlands received three grand prizes at the 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh-2022, while Fareha Zeba, Jayatu Chakma, Mamur Ahsan Mahtab, Maynul Islam Paul and Sumon Chandra Das from Bangladesh and Ana Silvia Malhado from Portugal received the honourable mention prizes. Each grand prize winner received Tk 5,00,000 and the honourable mention prize winner received Tk 3,00,000. Besides, all awardees received medals and certificates.

After the inaugural ceremony, a cultural show was held at the venue where a large group of children posed with the flags of the participating nations, and the dance troupe of BSA performed an exclusive dance recital on the Rohingya crisis, planned by Lucky and narrated by Asaduzzaman Noor and Tropa Majumdar. Artists of the BSA performed at the same venue in the evening as well.

This month-long art extravaganza showcases two-dimensional and three-dimensional artworks such as paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, performance arts, installations and new media arts, crafted and presented by the participating native and foreign artists who channelled their contemporary thoughts through these artworks.

The 19th edition features a two-day international seminar titled 'Home and Displacement' with the participation of local and foreign artists, art critics, jury and observers. The seminar will be held on Friday and Saturday at the National Art Gallery Auditorium and Seminar Rooms of the National Theatre Building of the BSA.

In addition to the main exhibition at BSA, the Bangladesh National Museum displays 42 artworks of Bangladeshi legendary master artists from its collection as a part of the art extravaganza.

This 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh 2022 is dedicated to the country's founding President and the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who envisioned and established Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy which has been organizing the Asian Art Biennale, the largest art exhibition in Asia, for the past 40 years.

Cosmos Foundation is set to host a rendezvous dinner event for the delegates and participating artists of the 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh-2022 on December 11, and the month-long art extravaganza will welcome its visitors till January 7, every day from 11 am to 8 pm at the National Art Gallery of BSA.

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