“Tokai” rushes to the rescue | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2007

“Tokai” rushes to the rescue

Rafiqun Nabi's inimitable brush strokes at Chitrak

Paintings by Rafiqun NabiPhoto: STAR

In aid of the Sidr victims, Rafiqun Nabi is holding his current exhibition of paintings on his popular theme of “Tokai”, the little street urchin who has crows and dogs for company and yet works and smiles on. This is at Gallery Chitrak and most of the works have already been sold. The patrons for Nabi are teachers, architects, engineers and other intellectuals of the city with limited funds but fine taste.
The paintings, socio-political in nature, done with Nabi's inimitable quick, dramatic brush strokes are pulsating with life in Dhaka. The poignancy and optimism of the child labourer, with a bright smile and a job of his own to follow -- surrounded by dogs, crows, carts, human beings as well as trees and park benches -- is delightful and soul-wrenching at the same time.
These are delightful paintings that take one's thoughts out to the simple pot-bellied kid waving the national flag, and snoozing on park benches, trudging with his overwhelming bag of rubbish. The young one is breezing through a lonely life and yet marching on.
Being trained by master artists like Zainul Abedin, Safiuddin and Mohammed Kibria, Nabi believes that good drawing is the basic need for fine artwork. His overseas studies at Athens added to this belief. David Hockney inspires him too. Among the drawing and painting experts, Nabi is surely nonpareil, sharing laurels only with Shishir Bhattacharya.
With swift lines of the basic colours, and pastel shades to fill the rest of the void, along with other essential inclusions of the Dhaka scenario, Nabi builds a veritable arcadia in the capital city, although some may feel that the metropolis is nothing but a 'cement jungle'.
The socio-economic and political overtures of Nabi can be seen through the poignant pieces, as “Tokai” braves through life in his checked “lungi” and his podgy bare top. He hops, skips and whistles through life as if the sun will never set on his merry existence, although trash cans, bits of reject papers and other refuses from homes are the contents of his booty.
“These are not caricatures and I've tried to show the rhythm of Tokai's daily life. This character is familiar and I love drawing him. These delineations had me totally involved in my subject. I got rapt in this theme of the street children decades back, in 1977. These children are extremely intelligent, although they cannot go to school. These self-made and independent beings have only their quick wit and the instinct of self-preservation to guide them,” Nabi said.
“Earlier I had a similar exhibition on the same theme at the same venue in 2003, on Tokai's 25th year of publication in Bichitra. Now this much-loved character appears in the weekly 2000. The hurricane has caused innumerable deaths. All artists wish to do something for the devastated nation. I too want to do my bit,” he added.
Nabi spent 15 days on this collection of 35 paintings. The gallery picked up some of the bills. He used water-colour and acrylic.

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