By Sheikh Iraj
The writer is a freelance feature writer

There are a number of consulates located in Bangladesh. Despite a growing number of embassies, there are only a handful of cultural centres in the capital which promote both Bangladeshi and their native cultures. Every now and then they come up with a wide range of programmes starting from languages courses to dance, art and cross-cultural programmes. Read on to find out about some of the cultural centres in Dhaka and their activities so that you can drop by anytime:

Alliance Française de Dhaka

Beginning its journey in 1959 in Dhaka Alliance Française de Dhaka, widely known by its short form AFD, has turned into one of the most buzzing places in the capital. Their main branch is located in Dhanmondi along with two other branches in Uttara and Gulshan. AFD is perhaps one of the most active cultural centres at the moment as they are offering courses on French language, guitar, piano, violin and classical music courses. Those who are interested to enroll themselves in any of their courses are encouraged to visit the centre in person. Besides, they promote art and artists by organizing exhibitions on a regular basis. AFD has 2 galleries which are used to promote local or international visual artists. Apart from these, they also organize cultural events, movie screening and gigs with a view to attracting the youths.

Alliance Française de Dhaka is also very popular for its cafeteria and library. Their cafeteria is a pleasant place and is open for all. AFD Multimedia Library (Médiathèque) ‘Jules Verne’ has more than 7,500 documents. Majority of them are in French but there are also books in English and Bangla, translated from French. When it comes to current affairs, one can keep themselves updated with about 20 magazines from France available in the library. The multimedia collection of the library has more than 638 feature films (DVDs), documentaries as well as popular children’s animation films. The library has more than 300 musical CDs (French and international classical, pop, jazz, traditional etc.) as well.

The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre

The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) is an organization of the Centre of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations of India in Bangladesh. It was formally inaugurated by H.E. Dr. Karan Singh, President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, along with H.E. Abul Kalam Azad, Minister for Information and Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh, on March 11, 2010. The centre caters to a wide range of activities for promoting exchanges in the fields of art, music, dance and theatre between India and Bangladesh. The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre generally tries to hold events on different occasions and birth anniversaries.

It might sound strange to some but the Hindi language course offered by Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre is one of the popular courses of the centre. It costs around Tk. 1500 for the basic course. Moreover, they have an auditorium in Gulshan where they organize different functions on weekends. The centre has a rich library. Anyone can come and read in the library. However, if they want to borrow a book from the library, they will have to pay a minimum fee for membership first.

The Goethe-Institut

The Goethe-Institut is the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany with a global reach. It promotes knowledge of the German language abroad and fosters international cultural cooperation. By providing information on Germany’s cultural, social and political life, it furthermore conveys a comprehensive picture of Germany. Goethe-Institut Bangladesh was established in Dhaka in 1961 to strengthen the ties between Germany and Bangladesh. From the beginning, it has not only promoted German as a foreign language in the country but also organized various cultural programs enabling cultural dialogue. Goethe-Institut library offers more than 5000 media – not only contemporary writings and classical literature in German and English translation but also DVDs, music CDs and study materials for German as a foreign language. It also features several workstations with internet access.

The library is thereby not only open to their own students, but to the public. To use it one does not have to be a member. To only borrow media, a membership against a minimum fee is required. It’s also worth mentioning that they have introduced an eLibrary 3 years ago that allows one to download books free of charge from anywhere in the country. Goethe-Institut offers German language course and one has to admit that it’s one of the main highlighting programs of the centre. Goethe-Institut offers scholarships to German language students and teachers to attend short-term courses in Germany. Scholarships for higher studies in Germany are provided by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The centre also has a beautiful rooftop café, where students hangout on a regular basis. The best part is that the café offers snacks at a very reasonable price.

The American Center

The American Center engages itself in different activities but it is very much evident that young people are more interested in their education programs. There are about 8,000 or more Bangladeshi students studying in the US at the moment. The American Center in Dhaka has two primary avenues to support prospective students – exchange programs and EducationUSA. The centre offers dozens of fully-funded exchange programs, ranging from three-week intensive learning opportunities to two-year graduate courses. While they have exchanged for everyone, from high school students to academics and professionals, several of their programs are geared specifically for undergraduate and graduate students. Their Community College Initiative (CCI) provides undergraduate students from around the world the opportunity to study at a community college for one year. For students interested in studying at a US university for one semester, the Global UGrad exchange program is a perfect fit. So far, 62 Bangladeshi students have studied in the US through this scheme. For those interested in research, teaching, or even getting a graduate degree in the US, the American Center offers Fulbright scholarships. Each year, 8-15 Bangladeshis are awarded this prestigious scholarship. EducationUSA is also a great resource that provides free advice to the students. There are three EducationUSA centres in Bangladesh – the American Center at Baridhara, the Edward M Kennedy Center at Dhanmondi and the American Corner in Chattogram. EducationUSA advisors help students learn about the university application process, how to choose the right institution, what makes a good applicant, financial aid and scholarships, and much more.

British Council

British Council is the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities. Their purpose is to create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and to build trust between them worldwide. They work in four key thematic areas: arts, English (language), education, and society. The British Council was established in the UK in 1934. At present they are working in 110 countries and territories across the world. The British Council has been working in Dhaka since 1951. Since then they have expanded their presence to multiple locations in Bangladesh. They offer a wide range of services and activities across the country, through their offices in Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet. They work with the Government of Bangladesh and many local and UK partner organizations to deliver services and development projects in education, social action, and the arts.

British Council libraries in Bangladesh provide cultural and knowledge spaces that offer information opportunities to all. Their collections reflect the core priority areas of English, Arts, Education, and Society, and also bring the best of contemporary UK to Bangladeshi audience. They have a wide collection of classical and contemporary English literature, authoritative guides on management, business, IT and Arts, information about contemporary UK lifestyle and much more. Special section for GCSE and A level textbooks are also there. They also offer a wide selection of films, documentaries and British TV series. British Council is managing three types of scholarships – the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan, the Charles Wallace Bangladesh and, the Equity and Merit Scholarship (The University of Manchester).

Russian Centre of Science & Culture

Russian Centre of Science & Culture in Dhaka is one of the most prominent cultural centres in Bangladesh. Out of mutual friendship of both Bangladesh and the then Soviet Union, in 1974, just after our glorious Liberation War, Russian Centre of Science & Culture (RCSC) started its journey in Dhaka. Over the years this centre has become a marvelous hotspot for people of different walks of life. RCSC organizes and hosts a wide range of cultural and training programs. Russian Centre of Science and Culture is the only legal or authentic organisation that does students council for Bangladeshi students who want to study in Russia. From choosing the right university to taking admission, they help with every step of the process. Every year a good number of students and professionals visit Russia for higher education. At the moment for Bangladeshi students, Russian government offers 67 scholarships in a number of different subjects.

Their exhibition hall is quite popular among young artists for organizing and holding art exhibitions, workshops, and other cultural programs. The centre has a rich library and a reading room. The authorities at the RCSC welcome everyone to visit their library and the process of becoming a member is fairly easy and cost effective! The library collection consists of more than 12,000 volumes of books (fiction and non-fiction), children’s literature in Russian, English and Bengali languages, and numerous periodical magazines and newspapers published in Russia and Bangladesh. People who are bookworms must pay a visit to this place.

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