Alliance Française de Chittagong director Dr Selvam Thorez says Bangladesh has an amazing diversified cultural heritage which is very lively and the country’s commercial capital, Chattogram, has a lot of brilliant artists who have passion for art and culture.
Art and culture can interact and exchanges between cultures are great source of enrichment and bonding, he says, mentioning that France is a meeting place for all the cultures in the world.
There is not a single evening in Paris, he says, where there is no African, American or Chinese music concerts and even in the Louvre Museum.
‘We are also trying to offer friendly ambiance in Alliance Française de Chittagong,’ he tells New Age in an interview.
AFC is not only a language centre where students learn the French language but also a pleasant hub for artists and art lovers.
Selvam took charge of AFC in mid-September 2017.
He says that interior of the centre plays another important role in attracting the visitors. With the help of the students of Institute of Fine Arts of Chittagong University, an elegant look has been brought inside AFC where students and artists feel as if they are in their own place.
AFC is going to launch a new guitar course and zumba dance course in next week. Photography course, western vocal course, piano course, gardening course and sitar course will start in January.
‘The people of Chattogram are very curious and enthusiastic about foreign culture. Whenever I visit France, I bring a lot of books, CDs and DVDs and I have noticed students are borrowing those materials, which means that they want to know, they have that ardour,’ says the AFC director.
Selvam mentions, ‘We organise diversified programmes in AFC. Recently world famous Bangladeshi flutist Ustad Azizul Islam, sitarist Alif Laila, French singer June Caravel, Chittagonian DJ Hasib, Jazz artists Raphaëlle Brochet and Phillipe Aert, Iranian singer Ariana Vafadari and Anowarul Huque Chowdhury and his group Aswad performed in AFC.’
He says that it is an international centre so it should have strong bonding with cultural network.
In collaboration with Institute of Fine Arts of Chittagong University, he says, AFC organised international celebration of contemporary sculpture ‘Star’18’ aiming to discover new twist of art and sculpture of Chattogram.
Tapestry exhibition of artist Nabila Nabi, sculpture exhibition of Sameena M Karim, photography exhibition ‘A Tale from Climate Ground Zero’ of Din Mohammad Shibly, drama exhibition of Eugène Ionesco’s ‘Rhinocéros’, book launchings of sailor Yves Marre and divisional commissioner of Chattogram Md Abdul Mannan were also held in AFC.
AFC is a place where exchange of culture is highlighted. French flutist Gilles de Talhouët and students of the centre made a wonderful conversation between music and Tagore’s poetry few days back. Masterpieces of celebrated filmmakers and cartoonists are also exhibited in AFC.
To mark International Music Day 2018, students of AFC and Sangeet Parishad Chattogram held a cultural programme.
AFC and Zonta Club Chattogram jointly organised a discussion to mark International Women’s Day 2018. ‘We try to exchange and blend different cultures,’ he notes.
AFC director Selvam, who is a noted musician, tells New Age that Bangladesh’s deep rooted heritage is amply reflected in her architecture, literature, dance, drama, music and the arts.
Like a colourful mishmash, the cultural tradition of the country is a happy blending of many variants, unique in diversity.
He appreciates the zeal of the art lovers of Chattogram and mentions that the artists of Chattogram are very fond of AFC.
Dr Selvam believes that culture is the essential part of the human’s society. Participating in culture can benefit individuals in many different ways. Culture is also a means of expressing creativity, forging an individual identity and enhancing or preserving a community’s sense of place.
Cultural heritage broadens opportunities for education and lifelong learning, including a better understanding of history, he states.
‘With the support of embassy of France, we are trying to modify this centre little by little. France embassy is very generous. We just need to take the initiative,’ he says.
Selvam says further that culture is a strong part of people’s lives, their views, values, humour, hopes and their worries and fears.
‘So when you are working with people and building relationships with them,’ he says, ‘it helps to have some perspective and understanding of their cultures.’
Alliance Française de Chittagong was established in 1965. Throughout the years, AFC has taught French to hundreds of students of different ages, professions and disciplines, including, police officers, interpreters for UN peace keeping missions, members of international organisations and laureates of O’ level and academic distinctions.
AFC has cultural partnership with Asian University for Women. It also provides language trainings to four English medium schools and six universities — these being external courses.
All along the years, AFC has become the major cultural centre of the city through concerts and exhibitions. It is a platform for artists and art critics from Bangladesh and abroad. AFC library is its main resource centre, says the AFC director.
Dr Selvam Thorez has taught Indian Art at La Sorbonne University for 10 years. He regularly publishes articles in the French Revue des arts asiatiques, Revue Histoire de l’art, Revue Asie etc.
He was consultant of UNESCO. He has lead several musical structures in France devoted to ancient, classic or contemporary music such as TM+, Les Cyclopes, Ensemble Calliopee, Compagnie Pocket Lyrique etc and has been the director of the Festival and Music Season at the Bourgueil Abbey in the centre of France, from 2007 to 2012.
He has been, from 2012 to 2015, artistic delegate for the Mulhouse Symphony Orchestra and also worked as general delegate at the Palestine Philharmonic Society in Bethlehem.
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