Shwapnil loves to collect unique pieces for her home. Her keen passion for these items keeps her busy rummaging Facebook for things to decorate the house with. One fine day, she stumbled onto an eccentric rickshaw art painted murir tin (traditional storage jar for puffed rice) on her news feed that immediately caught her attention.
"Murir tins are so obsolete that I almost forgot such things exist. Even though we have a common practice of consuming muri with chanachur mix, my mother would keep muri in a typical floral printed plastic jar.
Whenever I would go to my ancestor's village I saw this tin but it looked worn out, boring even. I never thought a murir tin could have such an appeal that I would be compelled to buy it. Now muri is always on my grocery list just to utilise the pretty storage box I flaunt on my shelf," said Swapnil.
The name of the store is 'One Culture,' where the 30-year-old service holder found the eye-catching murir tin. But not only tins, the shop is a one-stop solution to revamp and refurbish your house with a diverse selection of household accessories embellished with the mighty strokes of rickshaw art.
The 'One Culture' idea was conceptualised when Sumaina Abedin threw a "rickshaw paint'' themed party for her friends and family after coming back to Bangladesh from Canada. The party had all the traditional Bangali items on display, such as kettles, buckets, clay pots, pitchers, stools and trunks.
"When I moved to Canada, I had everything but it lacked a Bangali touch. On every occasion, I could feel how far away I am from my heritage and culture. And during celebrations of Bangla festivities in Canada, I felt that something that represents our folk art or heritage should have been here. This motivated me to start an enterprise that represents our local art," said Sumaina Abedin.
At the party, Sumaina's guests were fascinated by the flamboyantly decorated party. Although many organisations work with rickshaw paint, it was at this party that the guests could really feel the essence of the art and appreciate it so closely.
"They could touch the things and see how a piece looks on top of a centre table or how a jar can be portrayed on a dining room shelf," Sumaina Abedin told The Business Standard. By the end of that party, Sumaina had her guests take some of the items home, which led to follow up requests for more unique household items. "And so I started commercial production," she explained.
"My youngest son helped me create a Facebook platform for my products. So, when he asked me about my business concept, I said that I wanted to connect the whole world through art.
To me, art really does not follow any religion, neither does it confine itself to any specific nation; art belongs to everyone. Thus the name One Culture came to mind," Sumaina continued.
In that regard, Sumaina harboured a deep affection for rickshaw arts.
"Rickshaw art always intrigued me, the vividness, the story behind each rickshaw artboard," she recalled.
Initially, finding artists was a little difficult because the number of rickshaw artists available these days have dwindled with the remaining ones residing in Old Dhaka. Luckily, by searching for artists in the local rickshaw garages, Sumaina was able to find one artist and through him, many more.
One Culture is now a foundation of around 30 artists who meticulously bring life to clay, tin, bamboo, jute, fabric and so on.
"We do not have any established workshop or factory as the [rickshaw art] artisans find it more comfortable to work at their own place. We soon realised that they require certain surroundings to concentrate while they work,'' said Sumaina about her artisans.
"It was a joy to see people who do not know me ordering my things on Facebook. I felt truly blessed. Besides, people really appreciate art once it is made accessible. Not only in Bangladesh, but there is also a huge demand for rickshaw paint products in Canada too. My expat acquaintances in Canada ask me to bring products from Bangladesh when I go there," said Sumaina.
Customers often opt to choose the colour combination or the design patterns that result in new designs. In such cases, a blend of the founder's and the customer's ideas is given to the artists. The artist's inherent talent for creating new designs also helps.
To maintain the quality, each design is only created once. Customers often request to recreate a specific design that is sold already. Sumaina says she makes sure to make some changes to those orders too, however subtle.
Everything in One Culture is a reminder of Bangladeshi heritage. Floral motifs, birds chirping; each design is unique in its own style. For home or corporate events, One Culture party favours are available from Tk80 to Tk200 (for each item).
One Culture provides customised wall paintings on a square feet basis. Apart from selling furniture items, this Facebook page offers rickshaw art-themed painting facilities on home furniture. You can even get your cabinets, furniture or side walls flamboyantly rickshaw painted from this page.
Soon the organisation is going to launch tribal designs originating from the ethnic communities of the Chattogram Hill Tracts.
Even though One Culture has a display centre in Gulshan 1 where people can visit on a pre-appointment basis, it is mostly a Facebook-based shop. As opening commercial stores will increase the production cost, One Culture currently does not have any plans to open a physical store.
"We are always mindful of the fact that a neutral price balance is maintained to serve fair justice to the diligence of the artisans as well as our customers. If production costs increase, so will the price; hence we might lose a customer base that will not be able to afford the products", said Sumaina.
"I plan to bring all forms of art under one umbrella and launch a lifestyle brand," she explained.
Starting at Tk500 to much higher, products are priced within customers' affordability.
"See, from lower middle class to middle class, everyone wishes to decorate their home with something exquisite. My target is to keep the prices within their reach. I want everyone to enjoy my items," said the One Culture founder.