Veteran Mumbai-based artist A A Raiba died on Friday morning at his home in Nalasopara. The 93-year-old artist, who was a contemporary of M F Husain, A H Ara and F N Souza, had been bedridden for the last two years.
Born into a middle-class Konkani Muslim family, Raiba was encouraged in his artistic pursuit by his father, who was a tailor. After graduating from the JJ School of Arts, he went on to become an early member of the Bombay Progressive Artists Group, but went his separate way after finding the group too constricting. In this, he was encouraged by Walter Langhammer, who was art director of the Times of India at the time.
According to Raiba, it was the Austrian who also encouraged him to explore India, which resulted in the artist travelling extensively and eventually spending several years in Kashmir, a period that went on to prove artistically significant for him. However, this resulted in Raiba missing out on the beginnings of the commercial art scene in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda, led by galleries like Pundole and Chemould, which ultimately meant that Raiba dropped out of the narrative of modern Indian art.
The artist spent most of his final years, ignored and impoverished, in a small flat with his family.
“He was never studied the way that he should have been, and it was only recently that he started getting the attention that he deserved,” said Sumesh Sharma who, along with fellow curator and co-founder of Clarke House Initiative Zasha Colah, exhibited his works in three shows after “discovering” the artist in 2011. Sharma describes Raiba as a “modernist driven by the idea of being industrious”, and points to the works he did on jute canvases as indicative of his penchant for innovation with materials.