Rickshaws and rickshaw painting in Dhaka


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Inscribed in 2023 (18.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Bangla Academy, Bangladesh, 2022

The rickshaw is a small, three-wheeled passenger vehicle that is pulled by one person. It is a recognized feature of Dhaka and Bangladesh as a whole. Traditionally made by hand by a small group of craftsmen, almost every part of a rickshaw is painted with colourful floral patterns, natural imagery, birds and animals, creative depictions of historical events, fables, national heroes, movie stars and text. Rickshaws are also decorated extensively with tassels, plastic flowers and tinsel. As they are slow-moving vehicles, the paintings and decorations are easily visible to onlookers, thus becoming a roving exhibition. Decorated rickshaws are emblematic of urban life in Dhaka, resulting in exhibitions and festive events and often featuring in films and other artworks. The traditional process of fashioning rickshaws is transmitted by craftsmen in rickshaw workshops, orally and through hands-on training. Rickshaw painting artists work on commission and usually pass on their knowledge and skills to their children and close relatives. While all rickshaw craftsmen are men, painters include men and women. Rickshaws and rickshaw painting are viewed as a key part of the city’s cultural tradition and a dynamic form of urban folk art, providing inhabitants with a sense of shared identity and continuity.