Completely immersed in work, Tanmoy, 36, has not gone home for the last five days. He is busy painting a garbage depot at Jollad Khana Garbage Secondary Transfer Station (STS) in Mirpur-13. STS is the place where all the garbage is dumped before taking them outside Dhaka.
Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy is a cartoonist by profession, an art educator of Artolution, and the founding member of Cartoon People.
A group of 15 young girls and boys from Cartoon People are painting the depot walls and changing the look of the community. The setting surrounding the painting has taken on the form of a carnival, with loud music playing at the backdrop.
Community art gives people relief as it involves the entire neighbourhood taking part in the painting, and as a result, they start to own it as theirs. A rickshaw-puller casually requested Tanmoy to paint his rickshaw; a boy named Shanto walked in and showed interest to work on the project.
“People avoid bins and garbage depots for obvious reasons, but after I came here, I realised the garbage collectors have their way of making life beautiful. They have chickens and pigeons inside the depot as pets. I tried to incorporate their world — the dirt, stench, and the chickens and pigeons — into the painting. I am telling their story through this public art. I am not imposing my aesthetics here,” says Tanmoy.
He further explains, “I have kept my art accessible so that the garbage collectors here, the bhangari [scrap] shop owners at the opposite, the rickshaw pullers passing by — all can take part in this huge wall painting.”
Imran Ahmed, deputy executive director of Shakti Foundation, one of the largest national NGOs that works throughout Bangladesh with a prime focus on climate change, said, “We are incorporating art to convert the ugly into something beautiful. As part of the programme, we take rundown places and convert them into green, public spaces and engage the community so that they can take care of the place as well. We want to keep the city green and clean. Dhaka North City Corporation is very helpful in this regard.”
Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy’s latest work is a 10-day project and is to be inaugurated by the DNCC mayor on March 26.