By Mardia Hoque (YES 2019-2020, Bangladesh, placed by AFS-USA in Seattle, WA)
Querencia: the place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home and can be their most authentic self.
People find querencia in different places, be it in their loved one’s heart, in nature, and even in their art. Project Querencia was an international virtual art exhibition and competition organized by the Bangladesh YES Alumni Association. Our goal for this project was for it to be a safe, welcoming place for artists all around the world to showcase their artwork. Not only was Project Querencia successful in creating a platform that encouraged arts of all forms, but it was also successful in fundraising a significant amount of money for Project Ramadan 6.0, an initiative that provided 255 underprivileged families of Dhaka with food to break fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Project Querencia was coordinated by YES alumni Mardia Hoque ’20, Labiba Manzur ’20, and Famia Rahman Fiza ’19, and was supervised by Raisona Alam ’19. The project consisted of a freestyle art exhibition that was open for artists of all ages and for arts of all forms. Additionally, it included an art competition for Fine Arts (traditional art, digital art, and photography), Performing Arts (music, dance, and cosplay), and Storytelling (videography, and short films). There were specific themes for each category that aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Artists from all around the world submitted their artwork, which was showcased on the Project Querencia Facebook page, Instagram account, virtual art gallery, and website. During the 12-day submission period, we received a total of 157 submissions of all sorts of artwork ranging from music, dance, cosplay, mandala art, writing, and more. For the competition portion of this project, we had an amazing panel of six judges. After the submission period ended, all the artworks submitted for the competition were shortlisted according to their category, and then finalists were chosen for each category by the judges.
Finalists of each category were invited to participate in live one-to-one conversations on the YES Alumni Bangladesh Association Facebook page. This way, the finalists were given a platform to talk about their artwork, receive constructive criticism from the respective judges, and listen to what others had to say about their work. Following that, the winners and honorable mentions of each category were announced. There were a total of six winners and 24 honorable mentions.
Jaasir Jabbar, one of the finalists of the Cosplay category of the art competition said, “The actual program is amazing being able to bring artists together for a great cause. Honestly was a fantastic time, opened my mind to so many talented Bengali artists that I didn’t know existed and now I can’t imagine not knowing them! The team was really friendly and responsive to all questions I had, and now I can’t wait till the next time.”
Labiba Manzur, one of the project coordinators said, “I am still amazed at how many people we were able to reach within such a short amount of time! Project Querencia will always have a special place in my heart, it was a total dream come true for me! I hope that we can keep organizing such events in the future and give artists all around the world a platform to display their creativity through different forms of art.”
Indeed, this project was a dream come true for all the coordinators. The organizers and the volunteers worked tirelessly throughout Ramadan to make Project Querencia a happy place for as many people as possible.
Labiba Manzur (YES 2019-2020, Bangladesh, placed by AFS-USA in Portland, OR)
Famia Fiza (YES 2018-2019, Bangladesh, placed by Aspect in Phoenix, AZ)
Raisona Alam Dip (YES 2018-2019, Bangladesh, placed by AYUSA in Gilmer, TX)