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Hill Artist Group

Dhaka Art Summit 2020

The Hill Artists’ Group is based in 3 districts along Bangladesh’s south eastern border with India and Myanmar known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Home to 11 distinct indigenous groups with different languages and cultures, the region is under the control of the Bangladeshi army. In this highly militarised environment, many indigenous people are reluctant to be visible in public space. The Hill Artists’ Group organises exhibitions and also art camps for artists and young people, underlining the need for solidarity across the 11 ethnic communities to preserve their diversity of cultures and languages within a Bengali majority country. Their project for DAS was developed through a workshop with Alejandra Ballón Gutiérrez on the methodologies of SÖI (a public mural project in Lima, Peru with the Amazonian community Shipibo-Conibo). The Hill Artists’ Group identified a key shared practice of ‘jhum’ cultivation, also known as ‘slash and burn agriculture’, where crops are planted on land first cleared of trees and vegetation that are burnt on the spot. The soil contains potassium from the burnt plant materials which increases the nutrient content of the soil. The place of cultivation shifts annually, and every year indigenous farmers raise temporary houses in the mountain forests for months known as ‘Jhum Houses.’ This mural of a Jhum House weaves together textile patterns from the 11 communities, identified by different members of the Hill Artists’ Group as a statement of togetherness.

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