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Rooting for home

Women dominate his work. Bangladeshi artist Shahabuddin on what drew him back to India.

art and culture Updated: Jan 17, 2008 17:36 IST
Kathakali Jana

A woman kneeling, arms outstretched, body arched in gritty remonstration. Another raising her hands skyward as if in search of freedom. Women dominate the work of the Bangladeshi painter Shahabuddin.

He says, “Although the world is full of corruption and violence, most women have been able to distance themselves from cruelty and sadism.

They uphold peace in theworld.” The artist, who moved to Paris 32 years ago,was closely associated with his Bangladesh’s freedom movement.

Underlying message
“There is a lot of turmoil in my work,” he explains. “Perhaps because the freedom struggle left amark on me.” As he speaks, his brush darts across the canvas. A galloping horse, takes form. The artist has a passion for speed, movement and rawpower.

His past work revolves around football—a sport he follows with interest.

Strong bond
The artist believes his roots are an anchor and a reference point for his work. “No matter how far you are from home, you cannot forget your roots,” he says.

Shahabuddin has stayed in touch with his homeland through art and writing. His family too shares a connect with Bangladesh. His wife, journalist Ana Islam, is the Paris correspondent for Bangladesh’s publication, Pratham Alo.

Daughters Chitro and Charja share their parents’ love for Bengali literature.

Work in progress
The artist applies final touches to a work before it is displayed. He picks up frame after frame, sets them up on an easel, and steps back to examine them.

Working with a brush and rubber glove-swathed fingers, he is interrupted by a phone call. “Chhobi ankum kemne (How will I paint)?” he asks in mock exasperation.