Embracing Friendship: Celebrating 50 years of friendship between Japan and Bangladesh

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2022 marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bangladesh. Japan was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh as a sovereign nation soon after its independence. As a faithful and trusted friend, Japan has been committed not only to the infrastructural and human development of Bangladesh, but also to the fields of education, art and culture. To pay tribute to this glorious and harmonious friendship, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Bangladesh commissioned twelve works of art from the eminent artist, Professor Anisuzzaman Anis.

The artworks were crafted using the Japanese woodblock technique; a painstaking process where six to seven woodcut plates were used to complete each final image or print. Each of the woodblock prints contains Japanese and Bangladeshi elements of culture, heritage and landscape in two circular frames representing the union between the two countries. Each of the circles represents individual countries and each month focuses on a significant occasion from one country complemented by an element from the other country. The union is embodied through the landscapes, the flora, the architecture and the festivities to bring out the parallelisms between the traditions, the philosophy, the heritage and the Japanese and Bangladeshi culture. Picturesque depictions of nature and urbanity subtly portray tranquil themes that perfectly encapsulate the interaction of the two nations. Each month’s theme is further encompassed by a characteristic Japanese word with a complementary quote in English and Bengali.

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January’s theme is ‘A New Beginning’ – a dazzling red sun is depicted behind the breathtaking Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain or the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. To complete this symbol of grace and eminence, floats alongside in its own circular frame a shower of yellow mustard flowers, which can be seen in Bangladesh at the beginning of the month. In December, Bangladesh’s glorious Victory Month, the artist rendered a singularly tranquil image of the ‘Jatiyo Smriti Shoudho’, which was built to commemorate those who gave their lives during the 1971 war of independence. adjacent frame, a loose cluster of waterborne lotus flowers symbolizes a celebration of friendship shared by Bangladesh and Japan. Other months in the calendar similarly depict the cultural and traditional iconography of Japan and Bangladesh, such as “Nouka Baich” in October, paying homage to a traditional Bangladeshi dragon boat-style paddling sport. This is juxtaposed with a depiction of river waves reminiscent of Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ and together this piece champions the theme of unity and team spirit. With an emphasis on minimalism, the works inspire a sense of nostalgia and poetry.

Professor Anisuzzaman Anis, creator of this series entitled “Embrace Friendship”, is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Grand Prix of the 13th Biennale of Asian Art Bangladesh 2008. Anis was educated around the world at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, Rabindra Bharati University in India and Tama Art University in Japan. He focused on woodblock printing during his stay in Japan. The expression of the union between Japan and Bangladesh thus seems to have found a perfect place in the work of a Bangladeshi artist whose education and influence are rooted in Japan.

These works are presented in an exhibition organized and installed according to the philosophy of “wabi-sabi” – a traditional style of Japanese aesthetics encouraging authenticity and simplicity – in a selection of settings emphasizing the elements and colors earthy and natural. Visitors to the exhibition will enjoy viewing these serene and emotive works of art in a tranquil environment comprised of open spaces designed according to the concept of “seijaku”.

The exhibition entitled “Embrace Friendship” was opened by His Excellency Dr. A. K Abdul Momen, MP, Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and His Excellency Ito Naoki, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Bangladesh at Edge Gallery, Bay’s Edgewater, Gulshan, Dhaka. The art exhibition is open to the public until Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Enter the exhibition and savor the power of friendship. Let yourself slip into an energizing calm, as if you were in a Japanese Zen garden.

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