Rickshaw Art in Bangladesh France Lasnier ISBN 984 05 1578 0 2002 84pp 220x280mm HB Tk.1000.00 US$35.00
Rickshaws in Dhaka city exhibit a blaze of colours. Every square inch of this transport is decorated just for the pleasure of the eyes. Tassels, tinsel and twirly bits hang from all parts. Plastic flowers sprout in the front and on the sides, and pictures and patterns are painted or pinned all over it. The overall effect is spectacular – a set of moving pictures which emerge at random within a multi-dimensional perspective. It represents Bangladesh traffic art at its best.
This book is about both rickshaw and baby-taxi paintings and as well as the artists who through joyful primary colours provide a moving picture gallery for the masses and record the socio-political history of Bangladesh for the cultural historian.
The paintings used are taken from a workshop for rickshaw and baby-taxi painters held at the Alliance Française de Dhaka, during September 1999. Thus the book “freeze frames” this particular folk art which has reached a unique status in Bangladesh and belongs to its collective living heritage. Among the thousands of painted rickshaw backplates in Dhaka, the same themes often recur - famous film stars, futuristic cities, exotic birds around lakes, wild animals at a water hole, religious symbols, and scenes from movies. The multiple images of rickshaw paintings, the wealth of each theme, their daily and familiar proximity, their permanent presence under our eyes in the streets, make rickshaw art an open book or a wide-angle lens on Bangladesh: its past, its present, its symbolic fragments, its dreams and the aspiration of a significant segment of its people.
France Lasnier had been Director of the Alliance Française de Dhaka and Counsellor for Cultural, Scientific and Technical Affairs in the Embassy of France in Dhaka from 1996 to 2000. During her stay in Bangladesh she had been actively involved in the socio-cultural life of Dhaka and was particularly interested in rickshaw art. She helped in the organisation of a four years research project to retrieve and recreate the waning tradition of rickshaw and baby-taxi paintings.
Before joining diplomatic service, France Lasnier was trained as a scientist doing research in solid state physics for ten years. She worked for seven years at the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok as Associate Professor of Energy. She has an advanced degree in Techniques of Cinematography and has written extensively on films and theatre in France.