Regions and Ricksha Art Styles
In the 1980's,
ricksha arts and design appeared to have settled into three identifiable
regional styles which were centered in the major cities of Rajshahi
to the northwest on the Padma (Ganges) River; in Chittagong to the
southeast, the major ocean port of Bangladesh; and in the capital
city of Dhaka located roughly in the midsection of the country.
Dhaka rickshas over the years have sported the dominant design modes
in Bangladesh. They also tend to feature a broader variety of thematic
and esthetic effects than found in the other locations. As the capital
city of Bangladesh (estimated population 127 million), Dhaka (around
10 million) with its major markets is a migration magnet for unemployed
and landless people from the rural areas. Thousands of these people-mostly
villagers-- went into the ricksha trades, a few becoming ricksha
makers, more ending up as ricksha drivers.
Between the end of
the Bangladesh liberation war with Pakistan in 1971 and up to 1998, as
the population of Dhaka expanded there developed an increasing demand
for the exceedingly affordable ricksha transportation. Thus, opportunities
for work as makers (mistris) and artists also increased. Competition
and the desire for prestige among the owners (maliks) of fleets
of rickshas spurred a proliferation since the early seventies in variety
and sumptuousness of decoration. Currently, ricksha artists and makers
are up against extreme competition from rapidly increasing motorized vehicles.
These appear to be slowly driving the cycle rickshas off the streets.
On my last visit to Dhaka in 1998, I wondered if the glorious ricksha
arts had much of a future.
. . .