The publisher, and the editorial and production teams of Jamini are proud of their association with a journal that has won the appreciation of discerning readers at home and abroad. Sumptuously produced, it has set a standard for quality. The original plan to bring out two issues a year, unfortunately, could not be sustained, and to our dismay Jamini had to lapse into an irregular periodical. The reasons, needless to say, include financial and socio-political factors, besides the ongoing public health crisis that the world has been plunged into. In spite of such adversities, we are determined to keep Jamini alive. We intend to make it an annual journal that will appear at the beginning of the year. This issue will also mark 20 years of Jamini since its launch in 2003.
For this issue, which is coming out to welcome 2023, the editorial team has decided to make rivers the key theme. This will no doubt strike a chord in the hearts of everyone who is aware of the beauty and significance of rivers in our lives, as well as the imperiled state in which they exist today. A member of the editorial team has insightfully suggested that we make the opening word of James Joyce’s magnum opus Finnegans Wake, in which rivers feature prominently, the keynote—to make figurative use of a musical term—of this issue. The word is of course “riverrun”, resonant today as it was when first conceived.
In keeping with the theme, we begin with the many forms of art inspired by rivers. Kaiser Haq writes on what is possibly the most loved folk narrative from the eastern part of the subcontinent: the epic story of Behula, who undertakes an arduous river journey, with the sole purpose of reincarnating her husband, Lakshmindar, struck down on the very night of their wedding by the serpent goddess Manasa. The tale is popular in rural Bangladesh where it is regularly enacted in plays and dance performances, and Lubna Marium writes about one such version – an exciting day-long, riverine processional performance. Hiranya Malwatta talks about the Malwatu Oya, the Sri Lankan river that gave birth to cilvilisation, while Chinmoy Guha muses on the Seine, widely known as the beating heart of the City of Lights which has attracted countless souls—from national heroes, tortured artists, to star-crossed lovers—for inspiration and solace. Minhazz Majumdar gives us a glimpse into the inspiration behind the creation of Pushpa Kumari’s Ganga Maiya, a superb example of Madhubani art, one of India’s best-known folk-art forms. From Nepal, Abhi Subedi, Arun Gupta and Pallabi Gupta write about the vulnerable state of holy rivers of Nepal, including Bagmati that runs through the Kathmandu valley and how it is reflected in creative performances by artists and theatre practitioners. On the art created on the banks of rivers, Labib Hossain gives us a brief history of Muslin, a fabric so enigmatic and incomparable, its origins are steeped in myth and legend, while Iftekhar Iqbal talks about Shitalakhya’s Jamdani.
We then move on to the art of boat-making, an ancient tradition perfected over time and generations. Noorjehan Bilgrami writes about the Mohanas, an ancient community who lived in house-boats on the Indus River, and the boats they made. Runa Khan talks about the significance of boats in Bengal, and the documentation and preservation attempts of the more traditional forms of boat-making exclusive to this delta region.
On speaking on rivers, we have a conversation between architects, urbanists and writers, Kazi Khaleed Ashraf and Kongjian Yu, as they reflect on rivers and how they have inspired our imagination and impacted the global architectural landscape over centuries. As development leads to exploitation, Badiuzzaman Bay writes about the need to re-evaluate how we perceive our rivers – the veritable lifeblood of a delta nation. Not surprisingly, the need to rethink our relationship with rivers animates a whole range of creative ventures. In a conversation with Jamini, film director Tauquir Ahmed talks about the context of the making of the 2017 film Haldaa, which won praise and awards for its portrayal of the endangered state of the eponymous river.
The lives of the rivers in our time, and the tenuous state in which they exist, are intertwined with the life of the entire ecosystem they are a part of. Ansar Uddin Khan Pathan’s photographs of the birds that are unique to the regions alongside the Padma reveals the river’s ability to sustain a great variety of life, while Naveeda Khan takes us on a photographic journey that captures inimitable moments from the everyday lives of people who live alongside the Jamuna. Bangladesh’s master artist, S. M. Sultan, believed that a river has to be understood not in isolation from, but in close connection with the land and people it serves. Mustafa Zaman shows how the thought constituted the artist’s notion of “territoriality.” Jamini sought out a group of young architects for a conversation about their recent award-winning project and how it involved the community reimagining the banks and people’s role in protecting them. Two other young architects, Nusrat Sumaiya and Rida Haque also offer their visions of riverfront revival which will define the future of our relationship with urban waterfronts. Yet another architect, Adnan Z Morshed who now lives and works in USA, looks at the engineering marvel of a bridge that spans the mighty river Padma, and writes on the metaphysical reflections it evokes. Cathy and Leonard Stevulak have graciously allowed us to use on the cover, a detail from Mrs. Suraiya Rahman’s nakshi kantha artwork, which is inspired by Jasimuddin’s poem Sojan Badiyar Ghat.
The climate change conversations and doomsday projections apart, there is another narrative that forms the core of our cultural wisdom which is rarely heard nowadays: how the mediation of people, who are the first beneficiaries, advances the efforts to imagine our rivers and relate to them as living entities. This issue of Jamini brings together contributors who all share the concern that the revival of the narrative and placing it at the centre of contemporary dialogue about rivers may lead to more time tested ways of dealing with them. After all, our ancient myths and TS Eliot tell us—and a river may as well join their chorus—in my end is my beginning.
Detail of Sojan Badyar Ghat.
Embroidered ‘nakshi kantha tapestry’.
Artwork by Mrs. Surayia Rahman, embroidered by artisans of Arshi. Image courtesy of Kantha Productions LLC, copyright by Maritime City Photography LLC. www.kanthathreads.com
The publisher, and the editorial and production teams of Jamini are proud of their association with a journal that has won the appreciation of discerning readers at home and abroad. Sumptuously produced, it has set a standard for quality. The original plan to bring out two issues a year, unfortunately, could not be sustained, and…