Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
No matter how much we have been told not to judge a book by its cover, the truth is, with hundreds of thousands of books published every year, a great, compelling cover art matters.
And Sharafat Khan had spent 12 years of his life in the fine art of Sheba Prakashani's book cover designing. Remember devouring Sheba's compelling thrillers- Masud Rana and Tin Goyenda in your childhood? Remember seeing Kishore Pasha, a Bangladeshi-American teen detective on the paperback cover of Tin Goyenda? Sharafat Khan, a name that might not sound familiar to many of the art lovers in our country, is the one who helped representing the entire thriller in a kind of immediate visual graphic form through his cover designing skills.
“Back then there was no computer or cover making electronic tools,” Khan says, as he explains the manual cover layout wizardry. “The traditional process of getting a cover through making a collage with different pictures was extremely time-consuming and difficult. I used to be given different visual clues from the novel and my job was to string together all of these into one image. I would spend hours in the alleys of Polton and New Market in search of different western magazines from which I could get the images I needed. All of that, I had to achieve in the most cost-effective way possible; we had a budget of only 200 taka per cover. I have made around 300 covers through out my journey with Sheba Prakashani.”
In his illustrious life, he has worked as a cartoonist for the magazine Shaptahik Arthoniti from 1985 till 1988. “Shaptahik Arthoniti was a magazine that had important articles on different contemporary issues related to politics. I had to portray the issues that dealt with social and economical disparities in a satirical manner. Many of these covers were immensely applauded,” he remembers.
Apart from being a cover illustrator, Khan's portfolio has also been an archive of portraits of different famous personalities of the country- many of which have been collected by them.
“Starting from Kazi Motahar Hussain to Humayun Ahmed, I had made portraits of many Bangladeshi authors which they collected later on.” At present he has been working as an interior designer and artist for Bangladesh Police. “Artist Nitun Kunda has been my biggest inspiration and in terms of interior designing, I have learnt a lot from Nitun da. Apart from designing the Police Staff College, I have designed monograms as well for Bangladesh police and worked as a design consultant for Reuters and many projects of Grameen Bank.
Throughout his artistic journey, Sharafat always continues to find ways to get out of his comfort zone and try new things. “An artist always sees things rather than just looking at them. You will be surprised to see how even the most ordinary objects can take on a different feeling when you approach them creatively,” he believes. In last four years, he has developed an interesting hobby of researching world landmarks and discovering natural wonders through Google street view. “Since it has become so easy to access the internet, I decided to use this opportunity to explore the world. I spent hours in researching different exotic and historical places and that is how I have been realising my dream of seeing the world. I have used my knowledge to help other travellers learn about the area. In fact I have come across some interesting discoveries that I am yet to release,”
“But till then, my quest for seeing the unseen will continue.”