Kolkata to host month-long show on comics in Bengal

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At a time when the mind of the public is generally occupied by bad news — a war there and a conflict here — Kolkata is set to host a month-long exhibition on an art that has always sent the message through creativity and humour: comics.

Comics in Bengal, which begins on Friday, is being billed as a one-of-a kind exhibition and will shed light on the evolution of Bengali comics from its inception in the 1920s to the present day. While it is difficult to trace the beginning of comics in Bengal — many scholars point out the influence of patachitra and the panels on the terracotta temples being the forerunner of comics — the focus of this exhibition will be primarily on comics in print.

It will be held at the Kolkata Centre for Creativity, which is organising the event in collaboration with Comics Culture Collective. “It is not just an exhibition; it is also a tribute to the legendary illustrators including Narayan Debnath, Prafulla Chandra Lahiri, Mayukh Chowdhury, Saila Chakraborty, Sufi, Pratul Bandopadhyay, and Tushar Chatterjee, who came to reach into the hearts and minds of a large number of people, forming a new subculture in Bengal,” Richa Agarwal, chairperson of the centre, said.

“It will essentially bring to life the rich history, creativity, and artistry that have woven comics into the cultural narrative of Bengal,” Ms. Agarwal said.

Curators of the event pointed out that even when Bengal went through major political turmoil and social crisis in the entire twentieth century, Bengali comics had stood firm and remained immune to such upheavals. Even if major events like war were mentioned in the passing, they were limited to gags featuring villains with blackened faces and torn clothes without any visible evidence of bloodshed, they said.

This exhibition, according to them, is “only the first step” towards a more methodical and consolidated research that will enable them to delve deeper into the world of comics in Bengal.

“There has never been a concerted effort to archive comics in Bengal except for standalone projects like one at Jadavpur University by Abhijit Gupta. So, as a collective, we had to rely on the personal archives of Debasish Gupta, Biswadeb Gangopadhyay, Swagata Dutta Burman, and Indranath Bandyopadhyay to curate this huge collection of exhibits across different genres spread hundred years apart,” Pinaki De, a member of Comics Culture Collective, said.

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