The Indian subcontinent seems to have a flavour of its own as far as arts and artists are concerned. Earlier this month, the India Art Fair had a special focus on the neighbouring countries, and now the Rashtrapati Bhavan is getting ready to welcome celebrated Bangladeshi artist, Shahabuddin Ahmed, as a resident artist.
President Pranab Mukherjee, who had seen Ahmed's work for the first time in Kolkata in 2015, has asked the 67-year-old artist to display his work for public viewing from February 18-22. Ahmed, who has lived in Paris for 40 years, is celebrated as the 'national pride' of Bangladesh and is referred to as a Mukti Joddha or ‘Platoon Commander’. He fought in the liberation war when he was 21, alongside Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh. Young Ahmed was the first to hoist the flag of Bangladesh at the Dhaka Radio office (known as Pakistan radio back then) before noon. In his artistic career, he has examined the pathos of war, struggle of the people of the subcontinent and the freedom movement of India and Bangladesh through portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Rahman, among other prominent personalities.
About Ahmed's work, French art critic Gerard Xuriguera has said: “Shahabuddin experienced a threatened identity in Bangladesh that he vigorously liberated in 1971. This period of his life, both dramatic and full of hope, has undoubtedly affected his artistic path and forged his character. However, he did not turn into a militant painter, but simply a painter, a painter that always cared more for painting than for the subject of his painting.”
Ahmed, whose works have been shown around the world, says the war guided his path, but contrary to what many believe, he doesn't “paint war”. “I want to depict human suffering in defiant postures, borderline situations, in which the individual has to reach his limits. I don't choose death as a subject because deep down the nature of my interest is rather optimistic. And in the cracked attires of my characters, that some consider to be the reflection of the 'freedom fighter' or the athlete, is nothing more than the manifestation of the state of one’s suffering.”