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    Next Page: Style Features

    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.

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