When Tejosh from Bangladesh formed figures from mud as a small boy, his parents had no idea that he would one day be a famous sculptor. Thanks to his Kindernothilfe foster mother from Munich, he was able to visit a Kindernothilfe project. He studied, opened his first exhibition and received numerous awards. To this day, he has close contact with his godmother. "She is my inspiration," he says.
Text: Gunhild Aiyub, translation: Sophie Rutter, photos: Soumik Das/Jjafrin Gulshan
Tejosh Halder was born in 1982 in Kandi, a village in the Gopalgonj district. He is the youngest of four children, his father is a farmer, his mother a housewife. Tejosh attended the church school in the village, which was the only school in Kandi. The family had no money to finance a good education for their children. Through their church community, Tejosh's parents heard about the Dacca Diocesan Boys Hostel, where boys from low-income families could stay while attending the local school. They wanted their son to have a good start in life. Through the mediation of their pastor, he was accepted into the hostel in 1988, and from there he attended St. Paul's Secondary School and later college. "I stayed there for nine years," the 37-year-old recalls today. "I loved it, had a lot of friends and fun."
After one month, at least figuratively, a woman entered his life who became very important to him. "The director of the dormitory showed me a photo and said: This is your foster mother. In the picture, Bernadette Strobl smiled at me. He told me that she would pay for my schooling and my living.
An incredible experience for the little boy. He sat down and wrote her a letter - the beginning of a more than 30-year friendship. The contact between the two never broke off, even when Tejosh left the sponsorship programme in 2004.
Determined, the young man continued on his way. After completing his college years, he got a place at the Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka in 2000, despite fierce competition, and enrolled in Sculpture. A childhood dream came true: "Since I was a little boy, I wanted to become an artist," he says. In 2005, he won the gold medal of the institute with his sculpture of three reading children. "I have received many awards, but the gold medal and the prize of honour at the 12th Asian Biennial 2007 as the youngest artist in the history of this exhibition are especially valuable to me".
When he had his bachelor's degree in 2007, he opened his first, very successful, solo exhibition. As the youngest sculptor in Bangladesh, he received a scholarship and graduated from the Visva University Shantiniketan in India 2010 with a Master's degree - with top marks! Back in Dhaka, he rented a studio and participated in national and international exhibitions. His artwork "Serious discussion" stands in front of the institute where he once studied: Five children sit around a table - their posture apart from the speaker in different stages of exhaustion. The models for this were street children from the Shahbagh region. Tejosh Halder is thus taking the mickey out of the countless meetings, seminars and summits around the world. In 2006, he told the Daily Star: "For so many years, the representatives of the countries have been meeting to find a better social order. Nothing has come of it yet."
He regularly tells his foster mother about everything that is happening in his life - at first in letters, later by e-mail. "She inspires me," he says, "I always try to share all my experiences with her. The fact that she took over the sponsorship for me was very important for me - no words in the world can express what I feel. Bernadette is part of my life and my career. I still have the brushes she sent me years ago.
Bernadette Strobl is very proud of him: "I have followed Tejosh's career with great pleasure. His works of art are imposing. I think it's great to see what kind of art scene there is in Bangladesh - a country that you only see here in the context of natural disasters or cheap clothing. I think it's great that we are still in active contact after the end of the sponsorship. Social media is beneficial in this respect. I take part in Tejosh's everyday life, his artistic work and his private life."
They haven’t met yet, but Tejosh Halder has the great desire to visit Bernadette Strobl. And he has another dream: "There is not a single professional studio for sculpture in Bangladesh. I would like to open my studio in Dhaka called 'Bernadette Sculpture Studio'. Artists from all over the world should be able to work there."