Not just in creative fields but in general most Muslim women are surreptitiously finding ways of reclaiming their freedom world over. Tayeba Begum Lipi (b.1969, Bangladesh) is one such multimedia artist who portrays her counterparts through different media; exploring feminist issues, addressing societal contradictions and often questioning sexual stereotypes surrounding their existence around the globe.
At the India Art Fair I heard this feisty artist tell me her story, which began from Gaibandha, a village near the borders of India and Bangladesh. As a young girl when she first visited the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka with her elder brother (also an artist) was fascinated by its liberal environment. Hence, she completed her Masters here, despite of being more inclined towards cinema and music, in 1993. Since then, there has been no looking back.
Her first milestone was in 2000, when she went as an artist-in-residence to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. Three years later the lady won a Grand Prize at the 11th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh, Dhaka. Becoming known for her choices of media and unconventional works, Lipi was the obvious choice as the commissioner for the Pavilion of Bangladesh at the 54th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. In 2012 as one of the curators for the Kathmandu International Art Festival, she widened her horizons.
Married to her college sweetheart and a renowned Bangladeshi artist Mahbubur Rahman, the contemporary artist showcased solo in Dhaka, Delhi, Istanbul and London; the well-known 14th Jakarta Biennale in 2011, the Colombo Art Biennale in 2012, and the Dhaka Art Summit, same year. Recently, she did a retrospective at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan, USA.
Early in her career (2002), she co-founded the Britto Arts Trust, Bangladesh’s first artist-run alternative arts platform dedicated to organizing exhibitions, encouraging intercultural dialogue and providing residencies for local artists.
Is very grateful to have got patronage from some of the best art institutions like Samdani Art Foundation, Bengal Foundation, Devi Art Foundation, Harmony Art Foundation, Jindal Foundation and the Guggenheim.
At South Asia’s largest Modern and Contemporary Art Fair she was showcasing her interpretation of the mundane objects such as bathtubs, wheelchairs, sewing machine, picture frames, handbags, Fitflops, hanging chair etc. Mentored by husband, one sees her cleverly pushing boundaries with tools of precision and security – safety pins and stainless steel razor blades, into luminous atypical artworks. Each is regarded as a protective armor for females, and is perceived with a sinister and melancholic undertone, when super-imposed with titles such as ‘The Stolen Dream’ and ‘Trapped’; issuing a warning to the onlooker.
For its complementary series Lipi employed few jewelers and welders in Dhaka, to make items of clothing such as bikinis and nightdresses from gold plated safety pins. The process of interlinking them into a beautiful mesh brings to light the fluidity of the fabric and the fragile identities of women. This series was named Bizarre and Beautiful.
These objects of devotion transport her back to childhood, when she thought it a norm to have ever-growing families (no less than twelve siblings). The work reflects her visceral memory of sparkling new razor blades and pins being crucial and the only tools of midwives, on arrival of a new addition to the family. Her muse is a woman defending herself not as an impostor, but is a victim of historical and religious undercurrents.