I accompanied Cathy and Len back to the Salesian Sisters’ House in Monipuripara yesterday, without anticipating the treat that was in store for us. After we’d been there a short while, Sister Elisabeth asked if we would like to see the original Surayia scrolls… I think all three of us gasped and went “YES! please!” before Sr. Elisabeth could even complete her sentence. The girls were asked to bring in the wax-paper scrolls, and there they were : each small detail painstakingly hand drawn by the great artist herself. Some of the scrolls are large as the work table, around 5′ x 8′. Surayia’s fine work with attention to the minutest of details [expressions on faces, tiny objects, the veins on the leaves] had us in awe. The free flowing but precise pencil work had us going “look at this bit” and “look how the hands of this person gesture“.

Sister Joseph Mary: Photo by Anil Advani.

Then, on to see Sister Joseph Mary at the Holy Cross School and College nearby. The sun was almost down, the large waxy moon hung behind the massive Rain Tree in the garden. The gate-keeper struck a brass gong loudly once, startling us. This is how they announce visitors for a particular Nun. “One gong” was for Sister Joseph Mary to know that she had visitors. Sister greeted us and we hurried, before it got too dark,  to go look at the carved doors of the Holy Cross Hall which had been designed by Surayia Rahman. First, into the great hall to view the iron work grilles off-set by the deep inky blue evening sky. The massive and solid teak doors are carved with “Shapla” [Lotus, the national symbol of Bangladesh] and “Doel / Doyel” [Magpie Robin, the national bird]. We then proceeded to look at the small original Surayia wood-carving from where the door designs were taken. The room was full of artwork, works of Bangladeshi artists and students of the school and college. An oil painting by Surayia as well….

All along the way; Sister Joseph Mary gave us a running comentary on each piece, who painted it, when it was painted, on what occasion, snippets about the art, her life in Bangladesh….
I probably missed a lot while trying my best to photograph everything as quickly as possible, and to keep with the fast pace! 

Blogged by Anil for KanthaThreads.