“Disability art is art. Whether it is poems or painting or music or comedy or theatre, it is seriously intentioned creative work and made with some sort of aesthetic purpose. Thus, in the case of arts created by disabled people, the focus should be on art, not disability.”
This observation came from the high-level consultation on ‘Inclusive Arts: Exploring Disability Arts in Bangladesh’, was held recently for 2 days at the Six Seasons Hotel Premises. The event was hosted by the British Council in partnership with Dhaka Theatre and Institute of Informatics and Development (IID) and marked the launch of the three-year capacity development project DARE (Disability Arts: Redefining Empowerment).
The event was inaugurated by Dr. Md. Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal, Secretary, Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Notable presence in the event also included, Khadiza Nazneen, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare, Vashkar Bhattacharjee, Program Manager and Head of YPSA’s Information, Communication, Technology & Resource Centre on Disabilities (IRCD), Tom Miscioscia, Country Director, British Council Bangladesh and Andrew Newton, Deputy Director, British Council Bangladesh.
The consultation was an attempt at building goodwill towards creating positive perception changes regarding disability and empowering persons with disability through innovative approaches, bringing different communities together using arts as a medium.
Day 1 of the consultation included discussions around the status quo of the Arts sector, Disability sector and Disability Arts sector of Bangladesh. With the aim to identify solution-driven approaches for the disability community, the program facilitated four brainstorming sessions on policy implications, infrastructural support, communication and awareness and financing, which generated specific recommendations on the topics that can be utilized while working in the disability and art sectors in the country.
After a day’s worth of brainstorming and discussions, the second day consisted of the presentation with findings from the previous day and policy discussion in the form of ‘Policy Breakfast’. The policy breakfast opened with exploring the ideas of disability and disability arts from a conceptual standpoint. It was emphasized that any form of art, whether created by persons with disabilities or nondisabled people, should be considered as pure art. This was followed by a lively discussion among the participants regarding the audience with disabilities, whether the focus should be put on the artists or audience with disabilities to facilitate inclusion. Nahin Idris, Head of Arts at the British Council Bangladesh mentioned that it should go both ways. He pointed out that to ensure the inclusion of the disability communities in art, it is not enough to just think about the artists. The audience must also be taken into careful consideration. It is crucial to make sure that artists with disabilities have technical support available at the venue to perform as well as audiences with disabilities have technical support available to be able to attend.
Nasir Uddin Yousuf Bachchu, renowned film and theatre director and the Founder of Dhaka Theatre said that the inclusion of disability community in arts can have a tremendous social impact. Drawing on the experience of producing a theatre play called ‘A Different Romeo and Juliet’ with18 actors with disabilities in 2016, he enthusiastically pointed out that it not only opened up a new horizon for the participating artists, it also encouraged audience with disabilities to experience more artistic and cultural activities.
As arts has always been appreciated by Bangladeshis as a medium of expression and artists have been accepted with a positive image in wider Bangladeshi societies, the union between arts and disability provides a unique opportunity to dispel the social stigma associated with disability, and build a bridge between arts, disability and society.
British Council Bangladesh Arts programming, focusing on the theme Arts for Social Change - has created a solid track record of using arts to bring positive social change. As a part of the British Council’s new ‘Disability Arts: Redefining Empowerment’ initiative, this consultation aimed to explore the challenges and opportunities of Disability Arts in Bangladesh.
To build a bridge between arts, disability and society, the two daylong events brought together the relevant stakeholders from disability and arts sectors to create a contextual platform, that can be utilized to dispel the social stigma associated with disability.