‘Missing’ Humayun Ahmed painting exhibited in Cumilla | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 12, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:39 PM, April 12, 2021

‘Missing’ Humayun Ahmed painting exhibited in Cumilla

A controversy has stirred up centring a painting of celebrated writer, playwright and filmmaker Humayun Ahmed that either got lost or stolen during the time of his death in USA in 2012, and has now resurfaced in Cumilla after almost nine years.

The painting, which was displayed at a 10-day art exhibition in the city, was painted by the prolific writer while undergoing cancer treatment in New York.

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Meher Afroz Shaon, widow of Humayun, alleged that event organisers did not obtain the painting legally and it was part of five stolen paintings of the legendary litterateur.

She said the painting exhibited in Cumilla is one of the 25 paintings by Humayun that were showcased in a New York book fair in 2012.

Later, one Ruma Chowdhury, who used to live in New York at that time and was called Ruma Saha, kept five paintings of Humayun without their permission, alleged Shaon.

This painting in question, a watercolour painting of a youth standing underneath a tree, is one of those five paintings, she added.

Ruma is currently living in Cumilla with her newly-married husband Monzurul Azim Palash -- who hosted the art exhibition -- after divorcing her former husband Bishwajit Saha, an organiser of book fair and purveyor of Bangla books in North America.

Bishwajit used to be an associate of Humayun, who passed away at a hospital in New York on July 19, 2012.

Meanwhile, the 10-day exhibition titled "Selected paintings of hundred artists from Bangladesh and India" organised by Link Bangla, a venture of Palash, ended on Saturday.

Asked, Palash said the painting belonged to his wife Ruma and she kept it as a memorabilia.

Even though, as per Palash, the exhibition showcased 100 "selected" paintings by Bangladeshi and Indian artists, he mentioned no other artist except Humayun Ahmed in a Facebook post inviting all to the show.  

Contacted, Ruma said the painting displayed at the Cumilla exhibition was not original. "It's a copy," she added.

When asked why they advertised that they were exhibiting an original painting by Humayun, she evaded the question and claimed that the original got lost at a book fair in New York.

Ruma said back in New York she used to visit Humayun and his family when he was receiving treatment there. She also claimed that she inspired him to paint and his family had no involvement with his paintings.

She continued, "I inspired Humayun Ahmed for an exhibition of his paintings. He nominated me for hosting the exhibition in different countries." 

An exhibition of his 21 paintings was held at a book fair in Jamaica, New York on June 29, 2012, she said.

When asked if she had any catalogue of the exhibition, she replied in the negative.

She claimed that a painting of Humayun got lost from the exhibition and a complaint was lodged with the local police in this regard.

"The painting displayed in the Cumilla exhibition is a copy of that. The rest of the 20 paintings out of 21 were handed over to Humayun Ahmed's mother in Dhaka," Ruma said.

Shaon, however, said she did not know anything about a lost painting as Ruma did not inform them about it and now she is claiming that a painting got lost. She also reiterated that there were 25 paintings in total and five were still missing.

She demanded for a test to check whether the painting is an original or a print.

Asked, Ahsanul Kabir, a researcher of Heritage Cumilla, said, "Showcasing any art or creation of an artist without permission of the persons concerned is unethical."

Echoing him, writer Kuloda Roy said the authorities concerned must recover the paintings of Humayun Ahmed and investigate the matter properly to make sure what actually happened.  

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