Painted rickshaw

From Bangladesh
20th century AD

Rickshaws are used as a quick and simple way to transport goods and people in many countries. In Bangladesh, almost every square inch of the frame, hood and seat of these large tricycles is decorated. The decorations are traced around cardboard patterns, then cut from bright coloured plastic in bright pinks, yellow, blue, green, silver and gold, or painted on tinplate in the case of panels.

Some artists earn their living by decorating rickshaws. Most images represent a dream world drawn from cinema, advertising and other popular media; they conjure up an urban fantasy of a peaceful and prosperous Bangladesh full of skyscrapers, brilliant colours, beautiful women and dashing heroes. Rural scenes are also very popular, such as waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, chickens, cows, ducks, palm trees, water lilies and boats sailing across rivers and lakes. Film stars are often vividly portrayed, as are scenes from the war that led to the country's independence in 1971.

This rickshaw was commissioned by Shireen Akhbar for the exhibition Traffic art: rickshaw paintings from Bangladesh at the Museum of Mankind (1988-1991).

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Painted rickshaw

© 2001 Abdul Mamoon & Syed Ahmed Hossain
Painted rickshaw


More information


R. Warner, Rickshaws: art and industry (The Basement Project, 1998)


Museum number

Asia 1987.As16.218



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