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Romancing the rickshaw

Mar 30. 2016
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Bangladesh's uniquely colourful conveyances inspire a fashion line
 Rickshaw art can be introduced into the home through household decor, accessories and tableware, but today it’s also an increasingly popular theme in fashion. 
The style itself incorporates bright colours with vivid motifs portraying birds, flowers, and other aspects of nature. Colours like yellow, red, blue and green come together to invoke the deeply rooted traditional look of rickshaw art of which Bangladeshis are so fond. 
These motifs are found in saris, shalwar kameez sets, and kurtis, made in a range of fabrics so they are appropriate for daytime-wear, as well as being suitable for more formal dressy events. 
You can wear a plain top with a rickshaw-themed skirt, or wear a bright and bold kurti with monochrome leggings or trousers. 
There are many options available, thanks to local fashion houses like Aarong, Chondon and Jatra, which are revitalising the fashion scene by injecting it with the vibrancy of rickshaw art.
Rickshaw painting is an art unique to Bangladesh with its unusual burst of colours. What started in the ’40s, with a view to attracting more customers has now become an ambassador of the Bangladeshi way of life.
Over the years, this form of art has not only showcased film stars, animals, villages, and beliefs, it has also followed the curves of the country’s political and cultural history. 
During and after the Liberation War, the rickshaw artists, with great patriotism, depicted the scenes of the atrocities of the conflict as well as the valiant faces of the war heroes. 
In the mid-1970s, artists turned towards fabled animals. At the start of the ’80s, film stars came to rickshaws with their sunglasses, iconic hair, blushed cheeks, and huge eyes all too alluring to onlookers. Even though movie references have reigned over the rickshaw paintings, and for good reasons too, the cheerful animals, Taj Mahals, floral designs, religious motifs, country scenes and even aeroplanes have also found a place on numerous rickshaws in the more prominent cities. 
While rickshaw painting in all its colourful glory has been able to capture the hearts of the city-dwellers and tourists alike, it didn’t enter homes on regular objects until the 2000s. 
Around that time, fashion designers took a keen interest in the art and the rejuvenating of it. Fashion houses such as Jatra and Bibi Productions designed clothes and decor in the rickshaw art style. For a long time, there was even a rickshaw without the wheels in one of the Jatra outlets that could be used for trying on new shoes. 
The art is more fashionable than ever. Clothes designed in rickshaw painting style are one of the high fashion trends and can be made to look traditional or contemporary,
A light coloured kurti with a hand-painted animal in front can portray a modest and serene beauty whereas a skirt showing off a collage of rickshaw panels paired with a dark top demands attention. 
Rickshaw painting on cloth handbags is also a favourite with fashionistas who have sported them with edgy and trendy apparel.
Home decor items with rickshaw art are found in many stores around the city and there’s plenty of room for creativity.
For example, cushion covers painted with floral motifs or city scenes can be a great way to change the look of your house with minimum effort. It will create a warm and cosy sitting area perfect for afternoon tea. Perhaps a red rickshaw-painted kettle or a vivid yellow bowl can become the centrepiece of attention on your table.
Similarly, an eye-catching curtain on the living room window with partly hand-painted designs or a drape over a curtain in full rickshaw paint glamour will liven up the mood of anyone who enters your home. 
Rickshaw art is, after all, about the people of Bangladesh. 

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