Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala
Preserving Works of a Maestro
Great personalities are born to glorify the generations of their times as well as those of the future with their great works. A nation has to wait patiently for ages to have brilliant sons who bring pride and honour through meritorious works in their fields. They are not produced in every age or even in every century.
One such son of the soil is Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, who made his country familiar to the whole world through his paintings depicting the reality of human lives and socio-economic conditions of the country of his times. Through his works, we find a real artist with vast experience in all aspects of life.
Zainul Abedin, son of late Tamiz Uddin, a police officer and late Jonabunnesa was born at Police Staff Quarter in Kishoreganj district on December 29 in 1914. He died on May 28, 1976 in Dhaka.
Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala (Art gallery) located at Shaheeb Quarter Park area in the district town is an exceptional institution in Mymensingh as well as the country. Mymensingh is the place where the artist spent his early days.
The art museum has a total of 74 pieces of Zainul's works including 58 original artworks. The pictures on various themes and subjects continue to amaze visitors with the vivid reality of life that has been depicted so flawlessly in his drawings. Visitors from home and abroad stand for hours before the immortal paintings of the world-famous artist the maestro from Bengal.
The objects used by the great artists also have an evergreen appeal to the culture and heritage-conscious people. The art museum also has a valuable collection of mementos used by Shilpacharya in his drawings. These have been kept in big glass boxes in the middle of the gallery. Visitors can have a glimpse of the instruments used by the artist to paint paintings that made him well known throughout the world.
Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin studied at local Mrityunjay School. It was at that time that his devotion for painting was found. He used to draw pictures sitting on the shoals of Old Brahmaputra River. Having discovered his devotion for paintings, the teachers of his school encouraged him to go to Kolkata for a better future.
It is known that Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, as a student of Mrityunjay School, won the first prize in an Art Competition organized by Bombay Chronicle, a newspaper of India. Chintahoron Majumder, the then headmaster of the school, made all arrangements to send more paintings of Zainul to India to encourage Zainul. Eventually the headmaster's hopes reached the highest peak.
The artist was very attached to this place, which prompted him to establish a museum in his hometown.
The Sangrahashala was formally inaugurated on April 15, 1975 by the then Vice-President of People's Republic of Bangladesh Shaheed Syed Nazrul Islam on the bank of the Old Bramaputra River. Dr. Kazi Motahar Hossain and Prof. Abdur Razzaq among others were present at the inaugural session of the art gallery.
Initially a committee ran the museum with the assistance of local administration and elites as per agreement with Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin.
Later, considering the importance of the museum, the National Museum authority submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to hand over its charge to National Museum. After taking the charge in 1999, the National museum authority started development works to make this art museum a special attraction spot for the artists and visitors.
The museum started its journey with 77 paintings of the great artist. But on May 2, 1992, seventeen art works were stolen from the museum. Ten of these were later seized from Dhaka in the same year.
According to gallery sources, there are 58 original paintings and 16 replicas of the artist on display at the gallery. The paintings draw the attention of the visitors for their evergreen appeal. Some of the great paintings displayed at the gallery are Waiting at the Ferry Ghat, series paintings on Famine, a Malnourished Child in the lap of his mother, A Village Woman with a pitcher in her waist, Kazi Nazrul Islam, A woman just after bathing, a Mexican Woman, Monpura'70, a painting on the devastating tidal waves in Monpura of Bhola in 1970 and Life and Struggle etc.
A total of 69 mementos of Shilpacharya are also on display for the visitors. The art instruments include brushes, ink pot, spatula, scraper, a large portrait holder made of leather, carbon box, colour tube, colour palette, bottles for containing turpentine, linseed oil, reed pen, spectacle used by the artist, charcoal, wax, metal clip to hold the paintings, brush holder and easel.
A total of 75 photographs on the life and works of Zainul are also displayed this year.
According to sources, the renovation works of the museum started in 1997 and it were completed in June 2004. The National Museum started its development works after paying all the lease money to local administration. Later the project on 3.20 acres of land was started with a cost of Tk. six crore and fifty thousand.
The project included paying the lease money, construction of main gate, ticket counters, walls, cottage for the artists, open-air stage, etc. Multi-media projector and sound system and a de-humidifier for the gallery room to save the paintings have been installed.
The open-air stage is rented out to various organizations on various occasions. In winter, students from different educational institutions come here on study tours. The artists from and outside the district can stay at the Art Cottage at a cheaper rent of TK. 50 per day. The three-seated Art Cottage is housed in a building and has three rooms.
Every year from December 25-29, a five-day birth anniversary programme is organized by the gallery authority. The programme includes colourful procession, painting competition for school children, craft fair, discussion on the life and work of Zainul and traditional cultural functions including baul songs.
The art museum remains open from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm from Saturday to Wednesday. On Friday it remains open from 3.30 pm to 7.30 pm while Thursday is the holiday. On government holidays, huge number of visitors from in and outside the district throng at the gallery to see the great artist's paintings.
A visitor outside the district can reach the Sangrahashala paying TK. 10 to 15 richshaw fare from Mymensingh Railway Station and Mashkanda Inter-district bus stand respectively.
An interview with Dulal Chnadra Gain, assistant keeper of the art gallery
Dulal Chandra Gain, assistant keeper of the art gallery, an art graduate from Art Institute, Dhaka University, was born at the village of Boalia under Kalaroa Upazila in Satkhira District on October 3, 1972. After completion of his graduation degree, he joined as an Assistant Keeper under a project of National Museum in 2002 and was posted at Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala in Mymensingh.
Also a young artist, he has already materialized over 500 paintings using different media including Oil colour, Water colour, Mixed media, Charcoal drawings and pencil sketches. He has participated in various exhibitions at national and international levels including Asian Art Exhibition, Group Art Exhibition and Young Art Exhibition. Many of my paintings are in personal collections in and outside the country, said the artist. He is also a mural sculptor and shows his brilliant performances with cover designs of various publications.
Dulal Gain also said that the National Museum has a collection of some 800 paintings of Shilpacharya but less than half of the total are displayed in the Museum. The stored paintings could be displayed in the interest of art and culture, and some more paintings could be displayed at the gallery of the Sangrahashala, he added. As it is the only institution named after the great artist, the art gallery should be developed in all respects, added Dulal Gain.
The paintings of Shilpacharya proved the excellence of the artist in illustrating a sense of real flavour, said Dulal Gain. Surely Monpura'70, a 28-feet long painting is a marvelous piece of art by Zainul Abedin where he depicted the devastation caused by the tidal waves in Monpura of Bhola in 1970. This painting shows the human quality of the artist, he went on.
The Assistant Keeper also said that the art gallery has no publications, but the National Museum has released some posters and cards with photographs of the master artist.
(Aminul Islam is Mymensingh Correspondent of The Daily Star)
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