Without togetherness no joy of joys - Cultural Encounters between South Asia and Germany - Goethe-Institut Bangladesh

Quick access:

Go directly to content (Alt 1) Go directly to first-level navigation (Alt 2)

Without togetherness no joy of joys

Mustakim Mahmud and Sohel Rana Jim © Tomas Bünger
Mustakim Mahmud and Sohel Rana Jim © Tomas Bünger

Akka Mahadevi’s quote in the title invokes Tomas Bünger's memory of his time in Bangladesh as mentor and head of the Young Choreographers’ Platform

Suddenly, there was no joy and no togetherness anymore. 

Being a freelance artist in Europe is different from being a freelance artist in Bangladesh. There is financial support in these times, which at least helps to pay the rent and have enough money to buy food. Being a freelance artist in Bangladesh in these times means facing a completely uncertain future with no support at all. 

My life is sharing my art with other people, and I feel honoured that I have friends and students in Bangladesh. 

Eashin Arafat & Tomas Bünger Eashin Arafat © Tomas Bünger
In 2014, I came to Bangladesh for the first time, and since then, I have visited multiple times. With the support of the Goethe-Institut in Dhaka, a platform for young contemporary choreographers was established and many performances at the Shilpakala Academy and elsewhere were presented. We came together in classes, rehearsals and symposiums. There are so many young talented dancers, and I learned a lot from their dedication, talent, and joy. 

Joy is definitely something you can learn in Bangladesh when you come from Europe. People enjoy togetherness. 

Living means sharing your life with other people, and we miss this tremendously.
Rezwan Pervez & Tomas Bünger Rezwan Pervez © Tomas Bünger
Once I was invited to Kushtia by my assistant and friend Rezwan Pervez. After meeting the local director of the Shilpakala Academy, we spontaneously organized the first workshop for contemporary dance there. I was a bit nervous but what a pleasure it was sharing the aliveness of dance in a place where Lalon is so present.

I can still feel the heat and the joy of sharing the water after dancing many hours together. I hope that some of these young people can fulfil their dreams of being a dancer. Back in Dhaka, I noticed how I was looking differently at my students, imagining where they all came from to dance in Dhaka. Our relationship grew stronger. 

"You have to come back," one of my students said, and I did. 
In November 2019, I was invited as a teacher to the first Ocean Dance Festival in Cox's Bazar, and I was happy to see many of my students from Dhaka. They all came running when I arrived, and it ended in a big hug. How can you ever compare this with the virtual world? 
Hasan Ishtiaque Imran & Tomas Bünger Hasan Ishtiaque Imran © Tomas Bünger
It is an embodied remembrance, and it is from there that my art and creativity come from. I am still in contact with my Bangladeshi friends and students. I can just imagine how the situation must look like over there. 

With the great support of the Goethe-Institut in Dhaka, we could at least organize a young choreographers´ platform from home, created and filmed out of the present moment, shown in the internet with beautiful results. But it also shows what we miss. Living in the present moment is maybe a Bangladeshi talent, but the future lies in darkness. 

What will bring this situation to these young talents who chose being an artist with all the uncertainty that belongs to this decision? There are no jobs anymore, no income, and no perspective. I truly believe that the work we have done is important.
Dancing Adda © Tomas Bünger
Dance means expressing humanity beyond words. It is a fundamental part of life. We are dancers among dancers and human beings among human beings. My work in Bangladesh showed me that we can understand each other through art without speaking the other person´s language. We are bodies among bodies, and they express themselves which we learn from. I was in Dhaka, Kushtia, Chittagong, in Cox's Bazar, and in the villages. I was welcomed everywhere, and we were sharing our art, knowledge, and joy.
May this togetherness and this joy come to life again, and may these beautiful dancers not be forgotten in this serious situation. In good times they represent the culture, the identity, and the hope of this country, in bad times they should be protected.

Tomas Bünger