The 1 km long motif painted on the street in Dhaka
Alpona (Ritual Painting) is a kind of folk art and a spontaneous expression of the artistic sensibility of people. It retains the past experience of the community and, at the same time, is very much contemporary in feeling. It is mainly the womenfolk who have kept the art alive in this part of the subcontinent. They retain connections with age-old traditions and at the same time are bold enough to experiment with new forms and new colours. They are conscious of the changing moods of the seasons and their creativity thus marks the changing cycle of the year.
In modern times alpana is very much influenced by the Santiniketani style of art. Santiniketani Alpana is abstract, ornamental, secular and compact in nature. At present even Muslims draw alpana on different occasions such as marriage and other socio-cultural and religious ceremonies. On 21 February the shaheed minar in Dhaka and roads leading to it are decorated with alpana paintings. They have, in fact, become an inseparable element in the observance of ekushey February in Bangladesh. It is true that in modern Bangladesh alpana has attained a purely secular character.
Commemorating the Bengal new year, last month, communication company Airtel, supported by Prothom Alo, got together with 5 of the country’s leading artist to create history. The dream was to paint the world’s largest Alpona- a colourful motif painted on fortunate days such as weddings or community events in the Bengal region- on Manik Mia avenue in Dhaka.
220 young artists, supported by thousands of the city’s residents, worked from 12AM to 6AM, using almost 3,600 liters of paint to create an Alpona that stretched from one end of the Manik Mia to another. The 1 km long Alpona created covered a staggering area of 24000 square meters (260,000 square feet), and was the perfect way to mark the start of the Bengal year 1419!