Branding Chittagong 2011

Limelight on Tribal Lifestyles
The Branding Chittagong 2011 event was organized on 12 February 2011 by theDesigners’ Forum, a coalition of Chittagong based designers. With a spectacular fashion show, painting expo, musical evening and traditional cuisine, it was a night that celebrated Chittagong in all its colour, diversity and glory. The event, organized at the gymnasium of MA Aziz Stadium of the port city, had a special emphasis on lifestyles of tribal and ethnic groups who call Chittagong their home.
The Branding Chittagong 2011 event was organized on 12 February 2011 by the Designers’ Forum, a coalition of Chittagong based designers. Acting upon a media invitation from the organizers, I travelled to Chittagong and was put up at Hotel Al Faisal a rather dirgelike hotel which offers low comfort and substandard amenities. My spirits were immediately dampened as my mind automatically drew a connection between the quality of accommodation and the worth of the show I had gone there to attend. But, I couldn’t be more wrong! What awaited me and hundreds of other locales and out-of-towners was a feast for the eyes, ears and taste buds! With a spectacular fashion show, painting expo, musical evening and traditional cuisine, “Branding Chittagong 2011” was a night that celebrated Chittagong in all its colour, diversity and glory.
On the evening of the 12th as I entered the hall, the stage was already set and last minute sound checks were underway. Before the main event, artists were painting different kinds of subjects live for the audience to walk by and see. This kept the arrivers busy with something to observe whilst the stage show was being finalized. The programme started with famous media personality Afjal Hossain introducing the sequence of the event and sharing slight banter with the members of the audience. Following his co-hosts request, he even tried speaking in the local Chittagonian dialect! Although, he only managed to say ‘gom asi’ (I am well). The show was soon underway with the designers’ work being canvassed on the catwalk one by one. The choreography, by Ronu, was seamless and very well executed. The audience simply could not take their eyes off the stage. The brilliance of colours and the contours of the designer wears were astoundingly beautiful.
The designs did not stop at simply at colours and patterns; they transcended the obvious by delving deep into the heart of tribal cultures of the Garo, the Chakma, the Marma and other ethnic communities. Various attires and makeup mimicked various activities of these tribes, such as hunting, scavenging, working on tea estates with a baby on their back, etc. From ethnic brides to the tribal bourgeoisie and from dresses with Western influence to those authentic accessories, the designers’ left very little from which they did not gather inspiration. It was a tremendous experience for the audience, especially for those like me, who, despite having a Chittagonian origin, know very little about its local indigenous cultures.
Rowshan Ara Chowdhury, President of the Designers’ Forum conveyed her heartfelt gratitude to Emdad Haque, the architect and the director of the event ‘Branding Chittagong’. She added that tribal cultures and traditions can be protected if they are adopted in fashion trends. She also thanked Kanis Almas and Persona (beauty partner of the event) for her contribution. The best to conserve is to find reasons to use them, and remember them through practice. Ahmed Nawaz serves as he Chief Advisor to the Designers’ Forum and Subrata Barua Ronny serves as its Advisor. Different members of the organizing cast and designers handed over crests to special and chief guests, some of whom had travelled from Dhaka to attend the show. Crests were handed over to Sultana Kamal, GM Quader (MP), Bibi Russell, Afjal Hossain, Kanis Almas Khan, Emdad Haque and Shoeb Faruquee.
Sultana Kamal, human rights activist and politician, said, “Although I was born and brought up in Dhaka, when Emdad asked me to be a part of this event, I immediately went back to my childhood in my mind to the time when I used to visit Chittagong almost every year to visit my grandmother. After all, Chittagong is where my father was born. I am very thankful to be here, it is as if I have found my roots once again; it is as if I have found myself again one who belongs to Chittagong.”
Minister GM Quader gave a passionate speech at the occasion. He said that there are unique features to almost every aspect of life of tribal people of Chittagong. There is a lot we can learn from them, and a lot they can contribute to our ways of life. He added that Chittagong’s colloquial language is not like that of other parts of Bangladesh, it is truly unique and almost undecipherable by those who are were not brought up in Chittagong. He said, “People of Chittagong really love their origins. People of other districts love being transferred to Dhaka, but not people of Chittagong. Most of them prefer living right here. This is a tremendous asset we all have.” He quoted Socrates, saying that the most important knowledge is to know oneself, and he believed that programmes such as Branding Chittagong is beginning to do just that. He believes that Chittagong has a lot to offer to not only the rest of Bangladesh, but to the global markets as well.
Bibi Russell, renowned designer, spoke at the event as well and informed the audience how close her bond with Chittagong really is. Although her parents come from other parts of Bangladesh, she was born in Chittagong, and she never forgets to mention that when people ask where her hometown is. She said, “I don’t know if such unity exists amongst designers of Dhaka City, at least I have never known of an event this big jointly organized by designers of Dhaka. I am extremely happy that designers of Chittagong are so united!” She congratulated the organizers and designers for their work and ended her speech expressing her respect to the language martyrs of Bangladesh, without whom, our very mother tongue would have been lost, let alone lifestyles and traditions of ethnic groups.
After the intermission in which the crests were awarded and speeches were made, the fashion show took off again. Three hours seemed to tick away in minutes as the audience scanned a few dozen designs one after another at the event. The fashion show ended with a short tribute to the Language Martyrs of Bangladesh and the audience stood up in their honour; it was followed by a musical evening and dinner, which again added to both the variety and the splendor of the event.


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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