Momtaz Begum-Hossain looks ahead to Oitij-jo, a 3-day celebration of Bangladeshi art, culture and heritage in the capital
‘We’re re-branding Bangladesh. Whatever you think you know about the country, its culture and its people, Oitij-jo is going to change the way the nation is perceived, and for the first time, show it from a Brit Bengali perspective’; passionate words from Ruhul Abdin, who runs social enterprise Paraa and is one of the founders of a unique event taking place next week that celebrates Bangladesh.
It’s fair to say I haven’t met such a determined group of people in a long time. I mean who decides to book one of the most exclusive venues in London for an epic event on a subject area never been done before anywhere in the UK?
They are either a team of individuals who are completely crazy or who truly care; I’m going with the latter; after all nothing ever got achieved from sitting around and thinking about it.
Choreographer and dancer Akram Khan will be in conversation on Sunday
Last month the British Bangladeshi Power 100 2013 was announced profiling some of the most influential Bangladeshis in the UK. Oitij-jo however isn’t just an honours list; it’s a three day festival where some of these Brit Bengalis and a host of other inspiring individuals, groups and organisations will be given a mainstream platform to showcase their work, discuss their practices and physically demonstrate their abilities.
It’s a one of a kind event; that will give Bengalis and non-Bengalis from all over the country an opportunity to engage with aspects of the culture they perhaps, never knew existed. Ruhul who admits they organised the event in a ridiculously short amount of time but never stopped believing in the project, explains: ‘Second, third and fourth generation Bengalis know they are the diaspora but rather than moving on and trying to start a new culture, there is a whole heritage that they can all be part of. From art, music, dance, fashion and textiles there are Bangladeshis involved in all these disciplines who are taking it and making it their own.’
World music outfit Lokkhi Terre will be playing on Sunday night
The versatility of the event is what makes it so appealing. As you would expect there’s a good dose of poetry, music and dance but there are also engaging discussions on aspects of Bangladeshi heritage that are being resurrected by British Bengalis such as Muslin, Jamdani and Benarasi textiles.
The festival is the first time anything like this has ever happened in the UK, and credit to the Oitij-jo team, they have a managed to attract backing from some of the biggest Bangladeshi names in the country and beyond. The line up couldn’t be more impressive.
Ruhul say: ‘We decided to start at the top and keep working higher. We could have run this in a local community centre in East London but The Southbank is regarded as the cultural heart of the capital. It may not be perceived as an ‘ethnic’ area but just as our event is about being creative, we’re pushing boundaries in every element of what we’re doing. It also means our event will be accessible to all types of people, whether they think they have an interest in Bangladesh or not.’
Jazz musicians Zoe and Idris Rahman will be performing on Saturday
We’re giving away a pair of tickets to each day (including day pass and entrance to the evening events, worth £50.)
Friday: Oitiij-jo Revealed, until 8pm. Private tour & launch party featuring music by State of Bengal, a live dance performance and fashion show.
Saturday: Britbangla Party, until 10.30pm. Live Djs, tours, talks, VIPs, fashion, drinks, canapés.
Sunday: Oitijjo Finale featuring Lokkhi Terra in Concert, until 9pm.
To enter: Email your name, age and address to firstname.lastname@example.org with the answer to this question: who is your favourite Bangladeshi (dead or alive!) and why. Please only enter if you can attend and write the day you’d like to go in the subject line.
Competition closes 12pm Wed 20th February. Winners will be notified by email that day. Good Luck!
Oitij-jo takes place Friday 22nd February – Sunday 24th February 2013 at The Bargehouse, Soutbank, London SE1 9PH.
Entrance is free to look at exhibitions, day passes to attend talks, discussions and film screenings cost £7.50. Concessions available.