Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Heading north to Srimongol

Thurle and I wanted to see a bit more of Bangladesh, beyond Dhaka and the surrounding villages. Many of the Bangladeshi's who live in the east end of London, near to where Thurle and I work, are from Sylhet. We thought it would be good to see the north and visit the cooler tea plantations nearer to Sylhet. Thurle spotted some information about some eco cottages in Shrimongol (Srimangal) near to the tea gardens, so we decided to make a trip and booked seats on the Parabat express to head north.
We left early in the morning, as the city was waking. We wizzed across the city in a motor rickshaw as people awoke and dusted themselves down from the night.The journey north was approximately 4 hrs, 160km and cost £3.20. As we left Dhaka many people were walking to work along the rail track. Houses, shanti's and shops abutted the railway line along the route out of the city.
See part of the journey here: Journey North.The mist was lifting off the land and I became aware of the greenness and impact of water on the landscape.I tried to image it here during the monsoon.We passed through painted stations.

Others a patchwork of brick, tin and bamboo poles.
As the journey took us north we moved into more rural areas, houses were still being built from the mud blocks, raised off the ground.
People used the railway line as a means to connect communities. Many used the route to walk between towns and villages. The footpaths and the railway line are raised on stone and earth banks to avoid the risk of flooding.One town we passed through had a jute marketStacks of jute Stacks of BambooVegetable markets with umberellas

The journey was calming and a joy to sit and just look out of the window as the landscape passed.

We arrived at Nishorgo Nirob Eco cottage, a calm and remote spot set in a lemon grove and overlooking a small stream.
Nishorgo is the government department in charge of all the protected areas in the country, including forests in the Chittagong hill tracts and the Sundarbans. Nishorgo works with local, national and international partners to develop sustainable programmes for both maintaining and protecting these areas, at the same time trying to develop the economic opportunities for the local population through employment and training.
The cottage is locally owned and was established in 2008 with loan support from the Nishorgo Project and the USAID initiative. The owner received training from the project. Each time people stay monies go back into the project, helping maintain and protect the nearby Lawachara National Park.
The cottage we stayed in was produced using local building skills and designs. (nearby other tourist accommodation was of the large cast concrete construction type). Everything in the building was made from local materials( apart from the bathroom); the woven bamboo floor,
the walls,
The outside deck
The reed and bamboo roof

The other, newer buildings on the site, were less eco orientated with the use of corrugated tin for the rooftop and concrete for the foundations and walls.