Veteran Mumbai-based artist AA Raiba died Friday afternoon at his one-room home in Nalasopara, a suburb of Mumbai. He was 94.
Raiba had been ailing for the past few months and had been unable to recognise people in the days before he died. One of the earliest members of the influential Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, he struck out on his own following difference of opinion with fellow members, who included the likes of MF Husain, SH Raza and Akbar Padamsee.
Born into a poor Konkani-Muslim family in the then-Bombay, Raiba was known for his distinct style featuring bold shapes and bright colours. “He had also mastered the difficult task of painting on jute and was an excellent printmaker too,” says Anand Nikam, head of the printmaking department at the JJ School of Art, Raiba’s alma mater.
Early in his career in 1950s, Raiba travelled to Kashmir on an art assignment. He was so entranced by the beauty of the Valley, he lived there for a few years and painted numerous landscape.
In the 90s, he became unhappy with the way art industry functioned and stayed away from public realm. Soon, he was forgotten.
In 2013, the city’s Clark House Initiative Foundation for Art, co-founded by Sumesh Sharma and Zasha Colah, launched a study of Raiba’s work and created a short documentary on his unusual life, along with hosting exhibitions of his works. This brought his paintings back into focus. By this time, he was impoverished and living with his family and his art in a tiny flat where he died.
“Two years ago, Sumesh, Zasha, Raiba’s family and I celebrated his 92nd birthday at Clark House, with students from the JJ School of Art,” says Nikam. “He was happy and shared stories of his college days and travels with the students.”
The man was always full of life, adds Manisha Patil, an art historian and professor at JJ. “Even in a wheelchair and with his health failing, he continued to paint until his last days.”
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