Photo: Prabir Das
Artist Masuma Khan's childlike innocence and power of spreading optimism while teaching art makes her a favourite to her students. The feeling is mutual, as whenever Masuma mentions her students, her face lights up with a smile.
After working as a conductor of children art workshops at Alliance Francaise and Goethe -Institute for around 20 years, Masuma now conducts art workshops in Banani and Dhanmondi twice a week for students aged 6 to 24 years.
Masuma completed her graduation from the Department of Drawing and Painting of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University in 1973. In her long, celebrated career, she has bagged numerous awards, including the Jaycees Prize and the Anannya Award, and her paintings have graced several galleries of the country.
“However, the bond that I have developed with my students over the years is my greatest achievement,” she believes.
Masuma Khan's venture into the world of paintings began at an early age. When she was three years old, Little Masuma would be found painting, excited to show her artwork to everyone.
“I fell in love with art as a child, having grown up in a cultural environment of writers, artists and architects,” she says.
The daughter of M R Khan (former Examination Controller of Dhaka University) and famous writer Razia Mahbub, she was lucky to grow up in an atmosphere where artists like Jainul Abedin and Abdur Razzak would visit to have a chat over tea and motivate her to chase her dreams.
“My mother acted as my greatest support, strength and inspiration,” she says, fondly reminiscing about her mother who passed away recently.
“Since my mother's departure from the world, I often feel very down,” she continues. “I am stuck with this wheelchair since I had an accident ten years ago which left my knee permanently damaged. But no matter how harshly life has treated me, I never gave up on my passion of being engrossed in the world of art with my students.”
Her mother once gifted her a book on the French impressionist artist, Paul Cezanne, which motivated her greatly, inspiring her to adopt that style. Nature has always been a core subject of Masuma's paintings. The artist's optimism, despite the struggles of her life, is always reflected in her art.
When you are sad, try to help others who are in distress; try to think of their problems as your own and help them solve it - this is the advice Masuma's mother would give her and she took it as her life's mantra. And that's why she makes sure that her students feel safe to talk about everything with her; be it about art or about any problem that they may be experiencing.
“Because of my physical shortcomings, my journey was never an easy one, but there were always friends like journalists Sitara Parvin and Ahaduzzaman, my fellow artists and my family to get me going and inspire me to do what I am good at,” she concludes with a smile.