Today marks the birthday of versatile artist Nazia Andaleeb Preema. Capturing her 25-year artistic journey, Cosmos Books launched Preema Donna: An Infinite Journey, at this year’s Dhaka Lit Fest. In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, Preema talked about the book and her prolific career as an artist, among other things.
She has participated in many international exhibitions, including the ongoing Venice Art Biennale in Italy. Her work, ‘Fake news, women and visibility paradox’, is currently on exhibit at the biennale, thanks to Bangladesh’s third consecutive participation in the event. She asserts that artists must gather diverse knowledge, including literature, science, philosophy and psychology. Preema craves for a neo-renaissance in society. Through her artistic efforts, Preema wants to bring about social changes, especially in terms of women empowerment and peaceful co-existence for all.
“I want to connect and merge Bangladeshi art with the art of other nations across the globe. My ‘Staring Women’ series was prominent in constituting my artistic vision,” said Preema. “The veil in my art emphasises the context to protest, interpret and improvise society, in a modern and contemporary way. I have tried to juxtapose two contrasting aspects in the series.”
As one of the most influential visual artists of Bangladesh, she has emerged as a strong cultural catalyst. Her artworks embody lyrical overtones, while her illustrations demonstrate the virtuosity of blending tradition with contemporary media.
The book, Preema Donna: An Infinite Journey, consists of five chapters: Conflict, Courage, Wonder, Vision and Connection. It also features Preema’s artistic philosophies and new media ventures, which index her vivacious journey through visual interpretations.
“To understand art without knowing the artist is only a half-done task. My life is like art,” said Nazia Andaleeb Preema. “Art connotes courage. No artist can evolve, revolve and deconstruct himself or herself without courage. My involvement with music and dance has enabled me to exercise absolute freedom in performance art, text and new media.”
‘Prima Donna’ is an Italian word, which translates to ‘First Lady’. It was originally used to identify the main female character in an opera play. Many renowned academics and critics, including National Professor Anisuzzaman, Moinuddin Khaled and Mustafa Zaman have contributed to the book. Describing Preema’s journey, art critic and former Italian ambassador to Bangladesh, Giorgio Guglielmino, wrote in the book, “Daring, bold, charismatic, confident, enigmatic and heeled: all these words can be used for a Prima Donna, and consequently, Nazia Andaleeb Preema.”
Preema’s work has been recognised worldwide for its innovative approach and distinct technique. Her paintings, performances and installations reveal a personal narrative that depicts her experiences.
Against all odds, Preema has forged an illustrious career that brought her awards, grants and acclaim. Her unforgettable experiences as an artist continue to inspire and enrich her creative pursuits.