As a Bangladeshi, we take immense pride in our rich culture, yet, in modern times, we seem to be suffering from a schism with it more than ever. "What is the point of art?" is a question that gets thrown around a lot, and with each passing year, we seem to be forgetting and neglecting our need for expression, what it means to implore our deepest thoughts and feelings, and to live for something beyond one's nine to five responsibilities.
This is why Summit Group's recently released coffee table book was such a breath of fresh air. Appropriately titled 'Hamiduzzaman Sculpture Park', the book beautifully highlights the country's first and only sculpture park featuring artworks by the iconic Hamiduzzaman Khan.
Located at the south bank of Turag, in Kodda, Gazipur, the site is the home of Summit's award-winning HFO (heavy fuel oil) power plants which provide electricity to about 3.4 million people in Bangladesh.
On a site visit during the construction in 2017, Summit Group's Founder Chairman Muhammed Aziz Khan had his gaze fixated on a 400-feet exterior wall of the Medium Voltage Building 300 MW power plant. He looked at it as a canvas and he advised it to be painted white.
Hamiduzzaman was commissioned to create a mural on that wall. "I work on large canvases. But those were not more than 30-40 feet. Here was a 400 feet canvas! I found it interesting to be able to work on such a large canvas. I wanted a big space for a while and with access to this wall, I had received a space to fulfil my dreams," the artist wrote in the book.
After the completion of the mural, Hamiduzzaman shared with Aziz that he would like to make the country's first sculpture park there, to which he agreed.
Hamiduzzaman is an iconic sculptor and painter. His works were instrumental in the popularisation of sculptures in the country. His themes tend to explore the Liberation War of Bangladesh and birds. The works at the sculpture park represent 26 March of 1971, the Independence Day of Bangladesh.
The book illustrates the story of how such a park came to be. It includes a message from the Chairman; Engr. Md. Mozammel Hossain, managing director of Summit Gazipur II Power Limited and Ace Alliance Power Limited; and Hamiduzzaman's thoughts, experience and journey of embarking on such a monumental project.
The artworks were also beautifully contextualised by artist, curator, and writer Mustafa Zaman.
However, it was the undertones behind the text which spoke to me the most. A passage from the book reads: "The landscape of this park was not always like this. The ground was uneven, sand scattered in the site. The walls had to be extensively altered as well. The 400-feet-long wall was interspersed with pillars. I [Hamiduzzaman] requested the protruded pillars to be filled to create a plain wall. Additionally, I requested that the coloured glass in the upper window be replaced with transparent glass. The Managing Director Mozammel Hossain said, 'It is possible to fill between the pillars. But the walls will become wider and the cost will increase substantially.' Aziz Khan responded, 'Whatever the cost, flatten the wall space.'"
In a world where one only values things that generate wealth, Summit Group's dedication to creating something beautiful was astounding.
As a coffee table book, it is not a long read. The text will wheel you in, the story behind the park is fascinating, but it is the artworks that will have you coming back for more. The book features photographs of the mural, as well as all of the sculptures located at the park.
Hamiduzzaman's works are primarily abstract; his balance between expressionism, minimalism, and exploration with material will linger with you long after you have finished reading it. It will definitely have you revisiting the book time and again.
The sculpture on the cover, titled 'The Sun', the source of all energy on Earth, was also a neat little touch symbolising where the park is located. If you contact the power plant, you can make an appointment to visit the park.
The book is available free-of-charge at summitpowerinternational.com.