21-day long virtual exhibition of Rohingya arts and culture starts
11 December 2021, Dhaka - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Embassy of Bangladesh in the Netherlands are organizing a 21-day long virtual exhibition of cultural objects and artworks representing key aspects of Rohingya memories, experiences, and aspirations from 10 to 31 December 2021 through the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre (RCMC).
Titled ‘Art | Life | Rohingya’, the exhibition is supported by the Netherlands Foreign Office and can be accessed through the RCMC website at https://rohingyaculturalmemorycentre.iom.int until 31 December 2021. Visitors can click through a 3D virtual gallery, moving through different rooms to view collections such as Rohingya architecture, boat models, needlework, pottery, basketry, musical instruments and more.
The exhibition is part of an attempt to preserve Rohingya culture and ensure its continuity for Rohingya youth and children. The RCMC also aims to restore dignity and enhance the psychological wellbeing of the Rohingya population.
The cultural objects and artworks, created and curated by refugee artisans of RCMC in Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps, capture Rohingya life in their homeland of Myanmar through artful scale models of their traditional houses, boats, furniture, household items, tools, etc. Embroidery artworks such as ‘Henna Hands,’ ‘Self-Reflection’ and ‘My Home in Myanmar’ reveal the inner worlds of the Rohingya women. ‘Wedding Tapestry’ and needlework renditions of Rohingya proverbs visualize indigenous beliefs and practices.
IOM Bangladesh’s Officer In Charge Fathima Nusrath Ghazzali said, “The RCMC offers a platform for the Rohingya people to share and build their stories with a global audience and to connect with the diaspora.”
Rohingya artisan Zaber said, “Preserving and collecting our cultural things is a meaningful way of getting back a precious thing which was lost a hundred years before. We left everything except our memories. If we collect these things today, they won’t disappear, and our younger generations will know about them.”
“Embroidery is a world of art and a garden of relaxation,” said embroidery artisan Shamsunnahar. “We want to show Rohingya women’s handicraft to the world.”
The exhibition also includes artworks by Rohingya teaching artists of Artolution, a community-based public artist network that creates social change through art.
According to Dr. Max Frieder, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Artolution, “The groundbreaking story of the renaissance of the Rohingya artistic culture is evidence that humanity can overcome. The Rohingya Artolution and the Rohingya Cultural Memory Center are at the core of the same movement to define the history of how Rohingya artistic expression is the candle of resilience, towards a future of profound regeneration.”
“Rohingya people are just not another million people. They treasure distinct culture and heritage as well. Their identity and dignity demand protection, by us, all,” said Ambassador M. Riaz Hamidullah of the Embassy of Bangladesh to the Netherlands.
Ambassador Anne Gerard van Leeuwen of the Embassy of the Netherlands to Bangladesh said, “By preserving the cultural identity of the Rohingya, the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre creates hope and strengthens mental wellbeing. By organizing the exhibition, I hope that the plight of the Rohingya and the hospitality of Bangladesh will find recognition throughout the world.”
IOM is constructing a multi-purpose community centre in the Rohingya camp to display the RCMC collection. In 2022, RCMC activities will focus on skills-building, cultural education, and community-based art and culture activities to support the intergenerational transfer of knowledge.
Note to the Editor:
In May 2021, IOM and the Rohingya community jointly launched the RCMC, a multidisciplinary initiative which provides an online community space, interactive gallery, digital archive, and web-based exhibition, which is one of the first significant attempts to ensure Rohingya culture, language and identity are not lost until their safe return to their homeland. Visit the collection virtually at Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre.
The RCMC collection is only accessible online for the time being, but IOM is looking into finalizing the construction of an integrated multi-service hall. The structure will include the exhibition and workshop spaces and will be fully managed by the Rohingya community.