Bangladeshi Student Secures World-Highest Marks in Art And Design AS Examinations
19 year old Mondrila Modhurima is currently finishing her A2 in Law privately, getting inspired and contemplating life all at the same time. She scored highest AS (First Year of The A Level qualification) Art and Design candidate in the world. Recently she interviewed with The Prestige.
Would you say you aimed for scoring the highest marks in the world, or did it just happen? How did you feel when you got to know?
That’s a funny story, I never even dreamed of getting an A, let alone the world highest. Art & Design exams have a bad reputation for handing out unfair grades to students who I think are quite good, so I went in thinking I had no chance. All I wanted was to pass and give my all to what I loved doing the most – painting. The exams were really expensive, so during my AS I wrote the numbers 42540(which was the amount of my registration fees for the exam) on the tape that surrounded each of my works, on my walls and on my table to keep myself motivated, it helped me push myself and work to my best ability.
I still don’t know how to feel about it. I’m happy that I gave my mom something to brag about, and I’m glad I could give back to my teacher(Mr. Ripon Kumar Das) as well.
A Level Examinations usually take place in halls and have fixed durations, was the art exam procedure any different, if yes, could you walk us through it?
For AS, there are two course works. The first consists of 5 paintings based on a topic of our own choice. When that’s been submitted, we get the question paper after a couple of days. It provides us with topics and a list of artists/photographers that we could take inspiration from. We pick a topic and make 5 more paintings. 4 of them are to be submitted and the 5th work is to be copied in a 15hr sit down exam. The 15hr exam sounds terrifying but it’s broken down over the course of 3 days and lasts 5hrs each day.
For A2, there’s no exam. We just have to submit 10 paintings, a sketchbook and a thesis. But each of these items have to be executed with a lot of care, we have to make sure that our skill can be felt even in a simple sketch. It’s very demanding and it’ll have you painting more than you eat, sleep and breathe.
What inspires you to make art?
I find inspiration everywhere, in bugs, in nature, in animals, in gestures that people make with their hands and feet, expressions people make unknowingly and in stories that people tell. Conversations are of highest importance to me, you never know what story will come out of who. Try asking your friend about their fondest memory when they are in tears, ask a rickshawala about their favorite childhood fairytale, ask a “failing” student to talk about what their heart wants to pursue. You’ll find something valuable in that moment you both share. It’s hard not to be inspired when you live in a place like Dhaka, where passion seeps out at every seam and there’s political drama at every turn. I do not wish for my art to become about myself and my own opinion, instead I want it to become a place where all ideas are open for exploration. When people see something they enjoy, they praise God, I instinctively start to think of how I’d paint it. To me it’s just an itch that never goes away.