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Tintin in Bangladesh…. only in the artist's imagination!

Collage from the fan art series by Zahidul Haque Apu. Used with Permission.

A collage from the fan art series by Zahidul Haque Apu. Used with Permission.

Tintin was a popular comic book character for cartoon lovers young and old in Bangladesh during the 1990s. Many teenagers used to borrow the book from the local library or saved pocket money to buy the Bengali translation of the popular European comic.

In recent months, drawings of Tintin's adventures in Bangladesh have become popular and have been shared widely on social media. Cartoonist Zahidul Haque Apu revitalized Tintin's memory with his concept art series ‘Tintin in Bangladesh’, which places the beloved comic book character at iconic sites throughout the country.

The Adventures of Tintin is a French-language series of comic books (BDs) created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, whose real name was Georges Remi. In the series, Tintin, a young Belgian reporter and adventurer along with his dog Snowy (Milou), explored the Soviet Union, Belgian Congo, Peru, India, Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia, Nepal, Tibet, China and many more countries. Alas, Tintin never made it to Bangladesh.

The famous Bengali translation of the Tintin series was published by Ananda Publishers from India in the 1990s. Tintin fan and blogger, Russell John, collected all the original cover art of the translated series in his blog and noted:

The first title published in Bengali was “Tintin in Tibet” 1988 followed by “The Castafiore Emerald” the next year, the last title was “Tintin in Congo”, published in 2006.

Zahidul Haque Apu is the artist behind the Tintin fan art revival in Bangladesh. He is better known as RJ (Radio Jockey) Apu as he has hosted a show for a local radio station for the past 15 years and is currently serving as the program head. His favourite pastime is drawing.

Tintin in front of various historical sites and tourist spots in Bangladesh. Image used with permission.

Tintin in front of various historical sites and tourist spots in Bangladesh. Image by Zahidul Haque Apu, used with permission.

In a phone interview with Global Voices, he shared more about what inspired him to make these drawings.

ছোটবেলা থেকে আঁকাআঁকির ঝোঁক ছিল। কিন্তু সেটায় সময় দিতে পারছিলাম না। করোনা এসে সেই সুযোগ করে দেয়। কারণ, তিন মাস আগে আমি করোনায় আক্রান্ত হয়েছিলাম। টানা ২১ দিন সবার থেকে আলাদা ছিলাম। এ সময় মানসিকভাবে, শারীরিকভাবে ভালো ছিলাম না। কিছুই ভালো লাগতো না। যেহেতু কিছুই করার নেই, ভাবলাম, আঁকাআঁকিতে একটু সময় দিই।

হঠাৎ একদিন কৈশোরের পছন্দের চরিত্র টিনটিনের কথা মাথায় এলো। ছোটবেলায় টিনটিনের খুব ফ্যান ছিলাম। টিনটিন তখন বাংলা অনুবাদে বের হতো। বাংলায় পড়তাম। কিন্তু রাস্তাঘাট, গাড়ি-ঘোড়া, মানুষজন সবকিছুই বিদেশি। বাংলাদেশি কিছু নাই। তখন বুঝতাম না কিছু। তাই মনে প্রশ্ন আসতো, টিনটিন কেন বাংলাদেশে আসে না

[..] সেই ভাবনা থেকেই টিনটিনকে আঁকতে শুরু করি।

I used to draw since my childhood. I never could give it serious time due to study and work. The pandemic is one of the reasons. I was diagnosed with COVID-19 a few months back. I had to be in isolation for 21 days in a row. At that time I was not feeling well mentally or physically. Nothing felt good. Since I had nothing else to do, I thought, let's give some time to draw.

One day Tintin, my favourite character from childhood, came to mind. I was a big fan of Tintin and used to read the Bengali translation during the 1990s. But the characters, the animals and the places were all foreign — I could not relate to many things. So the question would come to mind, ‘why Tintin does not come to Bangladesh?’ … From that thought, I started creating the fan art series ‘Tintin in Bangladesh’.

Apu first posted the Tintin fan art on his Facebook timeline. People liked them and his works began to be widely shared, even in a popular Tintin fan group on Facebook. He got a lot of encouragement from people and thus created a Facebook page called Arts by Apu. His fan art has attracted over 8,000 followers.

He receives a lot of comments from people on his art, mainly on Facebook. Adnan SaiQat from Chandpur appreciates his art on Chandpur, a city near the confluence of two major rivers, the Padma and the Meghna:

আমাদের চাঁদপুরের লঞ্চঘাটের সাথে বেশ মিলে গেলো। গেইট দিয়ে ঢুকে হাতের ডান পাশ ঠিক এমনই! সুন্দর…

The drawing matches our Chandpur launch terminal. If you enter through the main gate, you get this view on the right side — just like that! Beautiful …

Tintin with Baker Bhai, a very popular character from a Bangladeshi TV series during the 1990s. Image by Zahidul Haque Apu, used with permission.

Tintin with Baker Bhai, a very popular character from a Bangladeshi TV series during the 1990s. Image by Zahidul Haque Apu, used with permission.

He has also started creating innovative fusions — mixing local cultures and fictional characters. In one of his latest covers, Tintin is seen with Baker Bhai and friends, one of the most popular fictional characters in Bangladesh, created by novelist and filmmaker Humayun Ahmed for a widely acclaimed TV show during the 1990s.

Jasarat Al Atun, a user on Facebook commented:

ইশ যদি এই কনসেপ্ট আর্ট এর উপর সত্যি একটা কমিক বুক বানানো হত!

If only a whole comic book on this concept art could be created!

Zahidul Haque Apu. Image used with permission.

Zahidul Haque Apu. Image used with permission.

Apu shared what inspired him to create this cross-genre fan art.

আমার একটা মেয়ে আছে। ৬ বছর বয়স। ভীষণ কৌতুহলী। ওকে আমি আমার ছেলেবেলা, নব্বই দশকের কথা বলি, কিছু বোঝে; আবার অনেক কিছুই বোঝে না। করোনার কারণে দীর্ঘদিন ধরেই ঘরে বন্দি আছে। বাংলাদেশকেও ওকে ঘুরিয়ে দেখাতে পারি নাই। তখন মাথায় এলো, বাচ্চারা যেটা পছন্দ করে, সেটার মাধ্যমে যদি চেনানো যায়। আমার মেয়ে টিনটিন পছন্দ করে। তাই টিনটিনের থ্রুতে ওকে বাংলাদেশ চেনানো শুরু করি।

I have a 6-year-old daughter. Very curious. I tell her about my childhood, the icons, the characters of the 1990s. She understands some, but do not so much. Moreover, she is at home for a long time due to the pandemic. We can't travel now. So I thought if children could learn via their favourite characters. Tintin is also her favourite character. So I created this series ‘Tintin in Bangladesh’ so that she can learn about these places and characters.

For many fans, the drawings have triggered nostalgia and warm feelings — with many viewers requesting that Tintin visit their town next.

টিনটিনকে নিয়ে আমার ফ্যান আর্ট দেখে অন্যরাও যখন নস্টালজিক হন, তখন মনে হয়, আমি একা নই, আমার মতো আরো অনেকেই আছেন। টিনটিনকে বাংলাদেশের আরো বিভিন্ন জায়গায় নিয়ে যাওয়ার ইচ্ছে আছে। দেখা যাক, কতোটা পারি।

When others get nostalgic about places seeing my fan art about Tintin, it seems like I'm not alone. There are many more like me. I want to take Tintin to more places in Bangladesh. Let's see how much I can do.

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