Aminul Karim Dulal

Ashoka Fellow
Illustration of a person's face depicting a fellow
Bangladesh
Fellow since 1992
KARUPALLI
Ashoka commemorates and celebrates the life and work of this deceased Ashoka Fellow.
This description of Aminul Karim Dulal's work was prepared when Aminul Karim Dulal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992 .

Introduction

Knondokar Aminul Karim Dulal, a painter, sculptor, and environmental activist, is building low cost, educative theme entertainment parks in the small towns of northern Bangladesh to stimulate the imagination and spread environmental and citizenship understanding.

The New Idea

Dulal believes that his self supporting theme parks can effectively create public awareness of environmental problems and solutions in Bangladesh. It is a country where most people are unable to read and few have had the opportunity to learn about the world and its eco systems. Dulal dreams of bringing the average Bangladeshi an opportunity to stretch the scope of his or her existence and learn more about the world in which he or she lives.
Painted concrete animals are the primary residents of Dulal's parks. He uses these constructed zoos to teach people about the environment and local biosystems. As the most advanced conventional zoos have learned to do, Dulal locates his animals in their natural habitats and emphasizes that, unless humans protect these environments, the animals cannot survive.
An artificial zoo is quite practical, eliminating the expense of importing and feeding the animals. In addition, one is free to fashion animals already extinct and those not easily available. The initial section of Dulal's first park has attracted large audiences. It looks as if it will be financially self sustaining; and, in light of this success, Dulal and his supporters would like to replicate the zoo throughout Bangladesh.
Dulal's theme parks will also challenge the illiteracy and boredom barriers that hinder educational projects in the country. The zoos will be colorful, pictorial, low cost, and engaging. They will provide entertainment for a people who have little or no access to this kind of mental stimulation. Finally, the parks will cater to people of all ages, making a visit a learning experience for an entire family.
As he develops his theme parks, Dulal will also address the problem of the gradual loss of traditional art and artists in Bangladesh. He will give young creative people jobs, a chance to relearn almost forgotten skills, and help restore the public's sense of history. The crowds coming to the parks will provide a strong, growing local market -- and a market expressing Bangladeshi rather than international needs and tastes.
By training young artisans, mostly female, to make traditional Bangladeshi handicrafts and art, Dulal will help revitalize Bangladeshi arts. In the process, he hopes his artists will develop new products that will also sell well to the growing tourist industry.
At Dulal's center Karupalli, his core group of artists and artisans not only participate in the construction of the animals, but also learn a variety of traditional art styles and conduct research and evaluation on future parks and constructed zoos.

The Problem

Environmental degradation and deforestation are having increasingly disastrous effects on Bangladesh: extreme flooding, devastating cyclones, tidal waves, and erratic rainy seasons are causing great suffering to innumerable people. A country accustomed to having six well defined seasons now faces planting and other decisions with increasing uncertainty as to the weather conditions. Due to the illiteracy, poor communications systems, and lack of education, many of the rural people of Bangladesh do not understand the causes of these changes and the means of preventing them.
The once culture defining and economically vital crafts industry in Bangladesh has been slowly dying. Traditional artisans can no longer make a living at their trade or find apprentices to follow in their footsteps. Yet, hundreds of thousands of youths in the country are underemployed and would benefit from the opening of a viable career.

The Strategy

Dulal began his work by creating Karupalli, a self sustaining model for cottage industries in Bangladesh. This educational and entertainment organization, catering both to children and adults, is self sufficient. With the success of his first step providing support, Dulal and twenty eight of his associates started to build the first constructed zoo. After researching many species of animals, Dulal put together a library containing sketches and detailed descriptions of 300 species from both local and other world ecosystems.
He is now at work creating his first park section by section. For the first time, the villagers in the area are being exposed to animals such as lions, ostriches, and kangaroos. Next, he and his friends fashioned a 1,300 square foot cave that houses sculptures and paintings of prehistoric animals and humans. Throughout the zoo are messages explaining the need to protect these animals' habitats, the role of animals and humans in the ecosystem, and the situation in the world today. The park has been well received by the Bogra local government and over 2,000 people are visiting the zoo each week even though only these first two stages are ready.
Once he has fully developed the Bogra park and several smaller versions in other areas, Dulal plans to continue to improve upon these early experimental zoos. When he has created a highly successful model on which other constructed zoos can be based, he intends to popularize the idea among artists from other districts, offering training to those interested in beginning such projects in their own areas. As other young people make their own constructed zoos, Dulal will give them technical assistance and learn from their new ideas. He plans to build a base of economic support for these new parks from several sources: modest entrance fees, the sale of craft products and food, and where possible, some public support. He also plans to use advertising to draw visitors from rural areas, notably including the hard to reach villages.

The Person

Born and raised on the town of Bogra in northern Bangladesh, Dulal has been fascinated with art since his childhood. Awarded a prize for painting in a local exhibition when he was only in class III, Dulal became involved with a non political volunteer organization of social workers managed by distinguished members of Bogra town when he reached class IV. He did many paintings for this group. He also was responsible for designing two monthly wall magazines. In the process, Dulal learned to use art to disseminate social messages to the public. He also learned the importance of teamwork, a concept he continues to uphold.
After completing his school examinations, prominent persons in Bogra sponsored his move to Dhaka where he got a job in the publicity section of the Bangladesh Social Welfare Organization in 1972. During his eight years with the organization, Dulal gained a better understanding of the social and economic conditions of Bangladesh and acquired a good name for designing posters on socioeconomic conditions in Bangladesh. In 1980, Dulal returned to Bogra where he established a painting organization that undertook the construction of a supermarket and an open garden along with the renovation of the dilapidated Nawab Palace. He and his associates eventually established "Karupalli" and its success led to the creation of a Bangladesh constructed zoological garden chain.