Today marks the 44th death anniversary of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, the founding father of Bangladeshi art and art education. He dedicated his entire life to promoting art in our part of the world. Known for his leadership in organising art movements, Abedin started the Government Institute of Arts and Crafts (now Faculty of Fine Arts) in 1948 at the Dhaka University (DU) campus. He was the founding principal of the institute. Qamrul Hassan, Safiuddin Ahmed, Shafiqul Amin, Anwarul Haq were contemporaries of Abedin. Their generation depicted the changing social realities through their art.
Born in Mymensingh, Abedin grew up in the serene landscape by the Brahmaputra river. 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 movements. He was in the forefront of the cultural movement to re-establish the Bangalee identity. In 1975, he set up a folk museum at Sonargaon, and a permanent gallery in Mymensingh, known as the Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala, to display some of his works.
In 2008, NASA's Spacecraft Messenger, while searching for Mercury, found several craters in the northern part of the planet. One of the largest of them, with a circumference of more than 110 kilometers, was named Abedin Crater, after the renowned artist. NASA named these newly discovered craters on Mercury after eminent artists and writers, which were approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in 2009.
Abedin depicted the miseries of the public during the great famine of Bengal in 1943, through his series of works. He made his own ink by burning charcoal and using it on ordinary packaging paper. In his sketches, the famine showed its sinister face through the skeletal figures of people. He followed a realistic approach that focused on human sufferings, struggles and protests. His work, 'The Rebel Crow' showcases his signature style.
"Abedin Sir had a heart of gold. His masterpieces are priceless assets for us," said renowned artist Monirul Islam. "His contributions to art creation and education through the establishment of Dhaka Art College are immense. Once he went to my home district in Chandpur, where we painted together on a boat around the confluence of the Meghna, Padma and Dakatia rivers."
"We must have a close look at our respective artistic efforts and contributions to judge what Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin did single-handedly for fine arts, art education and the art culture as a whole," added Professor Nisar Hossain, Dean of FFA, DU. "We have to think of the country's citizens and the art culture with a selfless mind, beyond mere personal interests and pursuits."
The Dean of FFA, DU, along with several teachers and the youngest son of Abedin, Engineer Mainul Abedin placed wreaths at the Shilpacharya's grave this morning. Renowned artist Professor Sushanta Adhikary, Chairman of Department of Painting, Oriental Art and Printmaking, Rajshahi University, proposed to set up a university, in memory of the Shilpacharya.
Abedin passed away in 1976 in Dhaka.