This documentary portrays the story of Shankha Art and Artist in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Shankhari Bazaar, the name itself is inheriting glory of shankha art. Once the Shankhari Bazar was famous as the place of art. The traditional Shankha industry is now struggling for survival. Fighting with Indian products, excessive prices of raw materials; however low-income and less market demands are the main cause of the struggle.
Before shankha was made by hand with touch of heart. Nowadays machine are widely using in Shankha industry. Although much works has been done within short time; but creativity become limited within monotonous format.
Cutting, cleaning, carving, sketching, designing and polishing are the six steps for making an artistic shankha. After cutting and cleaning, pairing and rounding has been done by machine.
Mithun Nagh, a shankha entrepreneur says, ” This is our family business comes from forefathers. The price of raw materials is rapidly increasing. So this industry is harassing for existence. In India, the tax on the raw material only 5% , but here in Bangladesh 35% . So Indian products price is very low and people interested to buy cordially the price product. To save this industry, we need to make a competitive market. For this purposes needs government’s patronization. Before the price of a pair range was 70-100 taka, but now Tk. 400. This is not effort able price for 80% Bangladeshi who are poor. If majority client can not buy shankha, how thHowever in market, alternative plastic shankha is available with 10 taka.e industry could be run?”
Waring ‘Shankha’ in hand and marking ‘Sindur’ (vermilon) on forehead are the traditions for Bengali married women. Hindu believes, shankhas keep mind and body cool. However conch-shell elements (like carbon) protect women from diseases. A couple of years before also Shankha’s ear-rings, necklaces and other attractive ornaments were widely used and popular. But now the popularity of shankha and traditional rituals are getting down with the effect of modernization.
Most of Shankha artists are from lower middle class whose daily income 70 — 120 taka. But in 80 decades daily salary range was 200 — 250 taka. There were original 142 Shankha shops in Shankhari Bazar, but now only remains 15 shops. Since early 90’s, the numbers are decreasing. The new generation does not interested to continue the Shankha art and Shanka business!
Shankhari Bazar is situated in old Dhaka. Narrow roads, high-density population and old architecture with less citizen facilities are the aspect of Shankhari Bazar. Now the community is living in high risky and unhealthy environment. As they are fighting with daily poverty, the spirit of traditional life is dimming. Most of the houses are over 100 years old. In 2004 19 lives were died by collapsing old building .
Shankha entrepreneur, Omio Kumar Soor says, “This is the time to save the traditional Shakhari Art by the governmental patronization. If government reduces the tax compare to India , this industry could be encouraged and survived . However it is need to make popular to all Bangladeshi people. We want to popularize the use of Shankha beyond the Hindu believers to all Bengali. If all Bangladeshi people, particularly the cultural peoples use the shankha, it could be easily popular. As a result , Shankha’s popularity would be increased, artist will get more work and the industry will be saved.”
Dhaka, 3 May 2007
Note: The documentary, “Shankahri Bazar” portrays the reality of shankhari art & artist in old Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is a team work of Humayun Kabir, Washiqur Rahman, Shamsul Arifin, Raihath Sohel with direction of Shahjahan Siraj. It is a course project of MSJ-303, Ulab, Spring 2007.