24-year-old Tahira Resalat is a British Bangladeshi, living in London. She is pursuing an MA/MSc in Innovation Design Engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. She completed her undergraduate degree in Materials Science and Engineering from The University of Sheffield, following which she did a year-long internship at Dyson Technology as an upstream research engineer. She is now pursuing a more creative field in engineering, which explores human-centric designs.
As part of a furniture design module, Tahira created a luxury outdoor lounging chair inspired by Bangladeshi rickshaws, named “Chaka”. “Upon reading about rickshaw bans in Dhaka, I was really shaken up by the impact it would have on the extensive rickshaw industry. I saw it as an opportunity to create a project with social impact,” she shares. “People need to understand that the rickshaw experience extends beyond romanticising it, to the rickshaw puller and others.”
“Chaka” is a conceptual social enterprise designed to convey cultural sensitivity and decentralisation in the future of furniture design. Its form mimics a wheel, not unlike the large wheels which adorn Bangladeshi rickshaws, showcasing circularity in its system design and putting members of the rickshaw industry at the heart of its purpose.
The rocking chair, designed to replicate the motion felt on a rickshaw, is made unique by pairing each purchase to a real-time rickshaw. Every rickshaw is decorated with an exclusive style of rickshaw art, encompassing pop culture, rural scenery, and animals.
“The style of rickshaw art is seemingly romanticised by Bangladeshis living abroad,” says Tahira. “A rickshaw library composed of rickshaw art from individual rickshaws will mean that each “Chaka” purchase impacts all those involved in a selected rickshaw, from the rickshaw owner, to the rickshaw painter and the person who built the rickshaw.” She further notes that rickshaw art is a dying form which means many are having to choose different means of earning a living. Bangladesh has a unique relationship with the development of rickshaws in that no two rickshaws in the country look the same.
“I look back at my time in Bangladesh very fondly. Having battled my journey with cultural diaspora during my teenage years, I now aim to find more ways to incorporate my heritage into my personal and professional practices to showcase the diversity and breadth my culture harbours,” she shares. Tahira also runs an art business named Teecaake.