Eighteen artists from India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Vietnam have taken up the area around Behala 14 No. Bus Stand with their artworks, graffiti and installations as part of the Behala Art Fest 2023 from February to February 5. My Kolkata is the digital media partner for the event.
The festival was conceived by artist Sanatan Dinda and the organisers of the Behala Nutan Sangha puja in 2020 to bring art out of the confines of galleries and make it accessible to the common man. In its fourth edition, the fest has become a global event.
Behala Nutan Sangha and the artists transformed a locality in Behala into an art gallery
“This is the fourth year of this great initiative and this is the first time I'm here in person to see this. Sanatan Dinda has been a friend for long and I really admire him for his work. Behala Art Fest has a long way to go and a lot of responsibilities to shoulder,” said Sundeep Bhutoria, chairperson of Behala Art Fest.
The festival was conceived by artist Sanatan Dinda and the organisers of the Behala Nutan Sangha puja in 2020
How it all began
Dinda, who has been conceptualising Durga pujas for many years, said he felt a huge gap between the common man and art. “The paintings and installations of renowned artists are unable to breach the barriers of sophisticated galleries, while Durga Puja, a celebration of art, attracts people enormously,” said Dinda, who had long been looking for a secular and alternative space to talk about subaltern culture and politics.
Debraj Goswami posing in front of his wall art
Of the people, for the people
With a vision of making art available to the masses and bridging the gap, Behala Nutan Sangha and the artists transformed a locality in Behala into an art gallery for the first time in 2020.
The festival has grown over the years. “Altogether, 18 artists from India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Vietnam have participated this year,” said Samindra Nath Majumdar, one of the moderators of the festival.
The artists have come up with one artwork each and there are a total of 18 installations and several more graffiti in two areas near Behala 14 No. Bus Stand.
Promiti Hossain in front of her creation
“This year our theme is ‘Unbound’. Like last year, there are several wall arts, installations and graffiti. And like previous years, the art pieces are hugely appreciated by the common people,” said Debraj Goswami, another moderator.
Dhaka-based artist Promiti Hossain has come up with a huge graffiti on the dying Rickshaw Art of Bangladesh. “There are no more than 12 to 13 rickshaw artists in Bangladesh. After the country’s government clamped stricter rules on plying of rickshaws, these artists are not getting much work and thus the art is dying, too. With my installation, I want to create awareness about the people involved and their art,” she said.
Samindra Nath Majumdar poses in front of a graffiti wall
Months of planning
Since the canvas of this open-air gallery is a Kolkata para, where the surrounding walls, lanes and buildings are used as art components, it took more than three months to plan and prepare. “After the artists send in their concepts, the moderators take a final call. Out of 25, we have chosen around 18 pieces,” said Majumder, adding that the artists had to attend online workshops with us to fine-tune their thoughts and works.