Today marks the 104th birth anniversary of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, the founding father of Bangladeshi art and art education.
Born in Mymensingh, Abedin grew up in the serene landscape by the river Brahmaputra. In 1933, he enrolled at Calcutta Government Art School, and later taught at the institute. He was an influential member of the Calcutta Group of progressive artists.
Abedin was involved in the Liberation War movement. He was in the forefront of the cultural movement to re-establish the Bengali identity. In 1975, he set up a folk museum at Sonargaon, and a permanent gallery in Mymensingh known as the Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala.
A celebrated figure for his leadership qualities in organising artists and art movements, Abedin, who passed away in 1976 in Dhaka, was the founding principal of the Government Institute of Arts and Crafts (now Faculty of Fine Art) in 1948 at University of Dhaka (DU). This institute trained and nurtured an entire generation of artists whose works reflected the changing times. Patua Qamrul Hassan, Shilpaguru Safiuddin Ahmed, Shafiqul Amin, Anwarul Haq were contemporaries of Zainul Abedin. This was the generation that depicted the changing social reality in their art.
Abedin, who became well-known through his Famine Series Paintings of 1943, made his own ink by burning charcoal, using it on cheap ordinary packaging paper, he depicted the starving people. In his sketches, the great famine of Bengal showed its sinister face through the skeletal figures of people. Abedin depicted this inhuman story with human emotions. These sketches helped him find his way in a realistic approach that focused on human sufferings, struggles and protests. The Rebel Crow marks a high point of that style.
“Abedin Sir's contribution to art and education through establishing Dhaka Art College are immense. I have many fond memories with him. Once, he went to my home district in Chandpur where we painted together on a boat around the confluence of the rivers -- Meghna, Padma and Dakatia,” recalls internationally acclaimed artist Monirul Islam, who with Susan Collins (UK) is set to receive Zainul Sammanona this morning, conferred by Faculty of Fine Art (FFA), DU. The DU Vice Chancellor Professor Md Akhtaruzzaman will hand over awards to the recipients.
This year, FFA's 70th anniversary programme has been merged with the annual arrangement of Zainul Utshab that FFA has been organising since 2009. An exhibition featuring award-winning works at the annual exhibitions by the students of all the departments of FFA ends today. The best student will also receive Zainul Gold Medal at the programme.
“We must go down memory lane to have a close look at our respective artistic efforts and contributions to judge what Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin did single-handedly for fine art, art education, and overall culture of this part of the world,” said Professor Nisar Hossain, Dean of FFA, DU. “We have to think of art education and culture with a sacrificing mind beyond mere personal interests and pursuits.”