This design of medallions with
inserted figures, such as the roses shown here, but also peacocks
and stars, usually surrounded by stars, flowers, and butterflies,
were a major Dhaka hood design in the 1980's into the 90's. The rose
often refers to the Prophet Muhammad, but it also refers in poetry
to the beloved.
The artist, Naj, avoided comment on symbolism. Generally,
butterflies are considered symbols of good luck. Stars are probably
just popular symbols, but they do suggest the firmament above us. It
was impossible, for this ethnographer anyway, to elicit any
interpretation of visual symbolism from the ricksha artists. They
usually made remarks like, "Well, we paint what the owner requires,"
or, "It's scenery." As the owner does not participate in the actual
art process, he or she would not have a clue either, except perhaps
to abjure using human images like film stars. Accompanying this
reluctance to "theorize" about art among the Muslim artists, anyway,
is the injunction most of them understand as religious law, that
making figurative images and indulging in painting will earn them
punishment on the day of judgment, according to their understanding
of Hadith or
Traditions of the Prophet. The imagery that came most in question
was figures of movie stars or human images, most prohibited.
However, these were also the most popular imageries for rickshas in
Dhaka, and so many artists just made them regardless.