Exhibition of 'Bangalir Porichoy Kabbo' opens at Nalini Kanta Bhattashali Gallery of National Museum

State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid on Friday said that the tradition of palm leaf scroll painting and etching can be included as UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage and Bangladesh's National Museum will send proposals in this regard to the global organisation.

"Painting and writing on palm leaves is a unique artistic craft and is the first of its kind in Bangladesh. The renowned Bangladeshi artist Afrozaa Jamil Konka - the second daughter of the valiant hero Shaheed Col Jamil who sacrificed his life to save the Father of the Nation and his family - has decorated and designed the palm leaf scrolls based on the long poem 'Bangalir Porichoy Kabbo' by the France-based Bengali playwright Choyon Khairul Habib, symbolizing the various chapters of Bangabandhu's revolutionary life and the historical episodes of the nation. We will send an official proposal to UNESCO for including this procedure as part of its Intangible Cultural Heritage," the state minister said.

The state minister shared his remarks as the chief guest at the inauguration ceremony of an exclusive exhibition based on the unique project titled "Bangalir Porichoy Kabbo", an epic verse engraved on 'Taal Patar Puthi' (manuscript on palm leaves) at the Nalini Kanta Bhattashali Gallery of the National Museum, Shahbagh in the capital.

Bangladesh National Museum Director General Md Kamruzzaman, eminent artist Prof Hashem Khan, and Dhaka University Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Prof Nisar Hossain spoke as special guests while the welcome remarks were shared by Choyon Khairul Habib and artist Afrozaa Jamil Konka.

"We all know that the palm leaf has multiple uses and the hand fans made with the leaves have been our lifelong companions before the availability of electric fans. The palm leaf scroll which we call 'Puthi' in Bengali, has been a great heritage element in our culture and my gratitude goes to Habib for such a wonderful poem on Bangabandhu and Konka for her majestic artistry," Khalid said.

The engraving artist for the project was Prashant Maharana, a craftsman from the state of Odisha, India. The state minister conveyed his heartfelt thanks and congratulations to Shaheed Colonel Jamil Foundation for taking this great initiative.

Choyon Khairul Habib, poet-playwright and the author of "Bangalir Porichoy Kabbo" shared the background story of this epic poem-turned-puthi, saying: "I have highlighted the history of Bangladesh, the evolution of the Bengali community and the nationality alongside the symbolic narrative of Bangabandhu in this poem."

"Since I started writing 'Bangalir Porichoy Kabbo', the incentive to preserve the work with palm leaf puthi was in my plan, and the very first person I thought of regarding the illustration was none other than Afrozaa Jamil Konka due to her connection to Bangabandhu through her great patriot father, Shaheed Colonel Jamil, and I can proudly say she did justice to the project."

Habib added that eminent thespian, reciter and former Minister for Cultural Affairs Asaduzzaman Noor narrated the poem and the audio of the recitation is also a part of this unique exhibition. Applauding the narration, State Minister KM Khalid also suggested orchestrating an additional 'Puthi-reading' style narration of the palm leaf scroll which will pay homage to the tradition of Bengal.

Artist Afrozaa Jamil Konka shared her emotional journey throughout the project and also demonstrated the challenges of working with a different medium. "It was Choyon Khairul Habib's initiative to collaborate with me on this epic project, and this was not only an emotionally challenging task but also a unique one. There are 58 palm leaf paintings in the scroll, while the verse has four sections and 48 stanzas."

"With the help of the engraving of Prashant Maharana, a 7th-generation palm leaf artist from Puri, Odisha in India, I completed the project in 6 months. We aimed to complete the taal pata puthi around Bangabandhu's birth centenary but we could not progress due to the Covid-19 pandemic; however, I am extremely proud and honoured to present this exclusive craft at this ceremony," Afrozaa Jamil Konka said in her remarks.

Both Choyon Khairul Habib and Afrozaa Jamil Konka said that the 'Taal Pata Puthi' will be presented to the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum and they aim to showcase this unique craft in every other museum in the country in the future. Choyon Khairul Habib also expressed hope to showcase this unique project in the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

The exhibition at the Nalini Kant Bhattasali Gallery will continue till May 20 and is open to all during the visiting hours of the National Museum.

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