Nasima Haq Mitu
By Susan Collins, on 25 November 2012
My visit to the Slade School of Fine Art was a delightful and satisfactory one. I was visiting another school in another country for the first time. I was full of expectations and of course, some apprehensions. Reflecting on my experience of those ten days, I can only say that I am happy that I got the opportunity to visit the Slade. We spent some quality time in the company of some wonderful people—students and teachers of the school.
The atmosphere of exchange was great. There was real keenness on the part of the participants of the workshop that we conducted on “Protima” or icon making and the outputs of the workshop speak for themselves. I have derived a great degree of satisfaction by co-conducting this workshop. This was actually one of my core areas of apprehension. I was not too sure how much creative energy this remote art form would generate among the participants. But it was a truly successful workshop. Thanks go also to the organizers whose planning was so meticulous.
Looking back, I can say that meeting students from so many different cultures and backgrounds was a unique experience for me. Here, in Bangladesh, I am used to teaching students from our country only. So, the diversity of humanity that you get to know in a school like Slade is really exciting.
My general observation is that the students at Slade are very communicative and very eloquent when it comes to expressing themselves. They are very vocal and can present their “idea” of art with a great degree of lucidity. In Bangladesh, our students do not lack in creativity; in fact they are as good as anyone. But they do have a general weakness in putting things into words. Perhaps, to a certain extent, that stems from a somewhat stiff teacher-student relationship that we have. Point to ponder….
The teachers, at Slade, are avid listeners. It is the students who do most of the talking. The process is quite the reverse here in Bangladesh. Students listen while we do the talking. I have come to understand from my experience at Slade that we need to know the aspirations, ideas and doubts of the students and the best way to do so it to encourage them to talk.
There is a general tendency of the students at Slade to try to become global or cosmopolitan in their art making. A common language of expression and presentation is a highly sought after thing. This sometimes leads to a monotonous, uni-standard perspective in art. But these students are coming from highly different cultural traditions and each one of them has a very different story to tell from a very different angle. This diversity of expression is sometimes sadly missing. But, I was pleasantly surprised when I tried to talk to the students personally. They do not need much persuasion to bring out the true colour and form at the core of their creative minds. My humble feeling is that one needs to encourage the students to look behind for inspiration and then fuse it with what is there on offer in the global scenario. It may bring out the best in them and the world of art would be really enriched.
Here, in Bangladesh, we do not have any formal art education till class 12. Thus, the students we get are totally uninitiated, apart from their genuine love of art. One may argue that it is the best way to begin. But coming back from Slade, I have a feeling that, some sort of initiation beforehand is not bad at all to start undergraduate studies in art. At least, the maturity of seeing the world through different eyes help and art education at school level, with all its limitations, can do that. Most of the students at Slade, having gone through that, are better prepared for the challenge of creativity.
It was extraordinary how much was achieved in the three-day workshop. The students who participated found the whole process very exciting and also enjoyed the chance to find out more about life and art school in Bangladesh. Lala Rukh also gave a very compelling Slade Contemporary Art Lecture to the whole school contextualising contemporary Bangladeshi art within both its own history and the folk art tradition.
Nasima Haq Mitu