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

Tea

Commercial tea production in Banglasdesh dates to the early/mid 1800's. Bangladesh is one of the top ten largest tea producing and exporting countries in the world. Most of the tea producing estates are in the north eastern region of Bangladesh, there are some in the south east. Many still have British interests. The picking season runs from March to December, during the wetter months, so all was relatively quiet.
We hired some bicycles and set off on a ride around the area and the tea gardens, the light barks of the trees standing out above the tea plants made bands of colour. They reminded me of the eucalyptus trees lining the roads in central Australia. The markings on the trees identified boundaries and ownershipWe didnt go into the plantations, we visited the nearby villages around Shrimongal.
Many of the inhabitants who work on the plantations are descendants of hindu tribal groups brought in to the area from other regions of India (Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal) specifically to work on the plantations, they are self contained and have developed their own distinct culture and language. Much has been written and reported on the health, living and working conditions of tea plantation workers.
In the village the women were gathered around the pump to collect water.
The houses and earth yards are decorated with adobe paintings using chalk, charcoal, cow or goat dung and clay. The designs are sometimes for ritual (some were linked to local stick dancing rites or Rangoli/ Alpana), sometimes to mark boundaries, sometimes to beautify.
Women regulary repaint and decorate an area outside of the house, sometimes as part of puja.
A beautiful circle some 25cm Ø.
Not all the drawing were of a ritual nature!
The villagers were friendly, it was evident that life was hard for some.
We cycled on to Srimongal, but the town didn't feel as welcoming, there were spots of rain, so we headed back.