Initially awarded for three years (2010-2013) in 2014 the British Council awarded a further three years funding. The objective of the project was to stimulate collaboration between UK and Bangladeshi artists and academics, and explore the differences and similarities in the educational challenges faced in these two very different contexts.
For the University of Dhaka Fine Art Faculty a key interest lay in exploring the potential for curriculum development in relation to the Slade’s experience in Fine Art Media, New Media and Interdisciplinary approaches. For the Slade with its very international student body this has been a key opportunity to further develop our global perspective in relation to contemporary art practice and theory, as well as discover and learn from the Bangladeshi context and traditions of making.
During its first three years there were a number of visits in each direction by faculty from both institutions which included lectures by Professor Susan Collins in Dhaka (2010 and 2012), Shishir Battarcharjee at the Slade (2011), an interdisciplinary workshop led by Dryden Goodwin in Dhaka in January 2011 and a Sculpture workshop led by John Aiken, Slade Professor in Dhaka the following month. Further visits included a painting workshop in Dhaka with Lisa Milroy in 2012 and a making workshop and Contemporary Art Lecture on Bangladeshi icon making by Professor Lala Rukh Selim and Nasima Haque Mitu at the Slade in Autumn 2012.
The first three years culminated in an exhibition, Inspired!, at Zainul Gallery, Dhaka University Faculty of Fine Art in January 2013, a workshop for artists and lecturers across Bangladesh at Dhaka University which coincided with the opening of the exhibition, together with a publication documenting the British Council INSPIRE strategic exchange project to date.
The extension allowed for a student exchange to be programmed as part of the project, and so two graduate students, Liton Paul and Md. Khairul Hasan from the University of Dhaka spent a month at the Slade as exchange students in November 2013, followed by two graduate students from the Slade, Olivia Bax and Sam Llewellyn-Jones spending a month at the University of Dhaka in April 2015. Further staff exchanges included Gary Stevens leading a cross-faculty performance workshop in Dhaka in February 2014; Sumon Wahed leading a Mask Making workshop at the Slade in February 2016 and Jon Thomson leading a Fine Art Media workshop in Dhaka, also in 2016. The final workshop was Professor Nisar Hossein, Painter and Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University who visited London in March 2017 and gave a workshop at the Slade and a public lecture at the Whitechapel Gallery on ritualistic Folk Art in Bangladesh.
The project concluded with exhibitions and symposia at Dhaka University and the Slade School of Fine Art in April and May 2017 respectively.
Other outcomes from the initiative include a presentation on the project in 2012 by Lala Rukh Selim and Susan Collins as part of the Allegories of Power symposium at Harewood House, Leeds; a Charles Wallace Foundation award for Joya Shahrin Huq to spend two months as artist- in-residence at the Slade in 2014, and a Boise Travel Scholarship 2014/15 for Imran Peretta (Slade MFA 2014) to research a project in Bangladesh.
Inspired! The book
The Inspired! book was published in January 2013 and documents the first three years of the exchange between the Slade School of Fine Art and the University of Dhaka, Faculty of Fine Art, Bangladesh.
For more information about the project, see blogs.ucl.ac.uk/slade-dhaka-inspire.