The Dhaka police estimate there are about 600,000 rickshaws in the city. A first and last impression of Bangladesh is likely to be the rainbow colours of cycle rickshaws. The Rickshaws in Dhaka adorn what could be best described as a moving Graffiti art.
Though these colourful machines are disappearing with the rising fortunes, there are still ages before they disappear al together. The Rickshaw art is inspired by all the dreams of the working class; idealise rural scenes, wealthy cities, dream homes, sports cars,the images also revolvearound two major themes – Dhallywood film stars (Bangladesh film Industry), depictions of the Liberation war and animal imagery.
Maliks, the owners of the rickshaw fleet, commission mistris (rickshaw makers) to build and decorate themachines to their specification. The artists working in the mistri’s workshop learn on the job, sometimes starting as young as 10, when they work decorating the upholstery and smaller sections of the vehicle.
The main ‘canvas’ is recycled tin, from a drum of cooking oil for example. This forms the back board of the rickshaw. Enamel paints are used. The artists may also decorate the seat, handlebars, the curved back of seat, the chassis, the hood- just about anywhere!