He fought in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war at the age of only 21 and later rose to critical acclaim as an artist, exhibiting his works around the globe. This master artist — a national pride for the people of Bangladesh — is soon to present his works at Rashtrapati Bhavan here.
Shahabuddin Ahmed, settled in Paris for nearly four decades, has been invited by President Pranab Mukherjee to be a resident-artist at Rashtrapati Bhavan and also display his select work for public viewing.
Titled “Shanti,” this exhibition of 12 large-scale works has been presented by Ganges Art Gallery and will be on view at the Rashtrapati Bhawan Museum Art Gallery from February 18-22.
Shahabuddin, 67, is a celebrated international persona. Above all, he is a “Mukti Joddha,” a platoon commander, who fought in the liberation war alongside Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh.
Young Shahabuddin was the first to host the Bangladesh flag on the Office of Radio Pakistan, now the Dhaka Radio office.
His artworks express his deep admiration for India and several Indian personalities, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Mother Teresa.
Shahabuddin has also successfully highlighted the pathos of war and the struggle of the people of the sub-continent and the freedom movement of India and Bangladesh through recurring portraits of Gandhi and Mujibur Rahman, among others.
“Shahabuddin first exhibited his works with us almost 22 years ago and it has been a very fulfilling journey for both the gallery and the artist. I saw in the art of Shahabuddin a very strong link not only between India and Bangladesh but also a bridge to the western world as Shahabuddin had in the latter part of his education been greatly influenced by European and English painters alike.
“When the President inaugurated his show in Kolkata, he hoped these works could be shown in Delhi and other parts of the country as well. With this invitation, we are being able to take that first step,” Smita Bajoria, Director, Ganges Art Gallery, informed IANS.
Shahabuddin studied at the Academy of Fine arts in Dhaka before obtaining a scholarship to study at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris.
Sharing his perspective on art, he said: “The experience of war has guided my path, but contrary to what many believe, I don’t paint war and war is in no way my creed. What I want to depict is the human suffering in defiant postures, borderline situations, in which the individual has to reach his limits. Nor do I 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.”
In 1992, he was one of the Fifty Master Painters of Contemporary Arts, an award bestowed on him at the Olympiad of Arts, Barcelona. He also received the Shadhinota Padak in 2000 (The Independence Day Award for his contribution during Bangladesh liberation war) and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2014 for his contribution to Art in France and globally.
His creations are in the collection of the Museum of Bourg-en-Bresse in France, the National Museum of Bulgaria, the Olympic Museum of Lausanne, the Seoul Olympic Museum, the National Museum of Taiwan, Bangladesh National Museum, among others.