Abedin’s paintings of Palestinian conflict and famines.
A Palestinian woman hugs her child close. Her eyes clouded with pain and anxiety — of an uncertain future, of what she has lost, of memories past, of the next meal or the immediacy of life and death. It is hard to imagine that the drawing which dates back to the early ’70s, finds resonance in the current Palestinian conflict. It is one of the later works of Zainul Abedin, a legendary Bangladeshi painter and political activist, who is better-known for his “Famine” series of 1943 and his works on peasants. The work was part of the 24 prints, selected out of a lifetime of his paintings (1935-1976), which were on display at an exhibition to commemorate the artist’s centenary year, organised by a cultural group, Jan Sanskriti Manch (JSM), on August 23.
This was the first in a series of exhibitions and lectures JSM will organise at venues such as the Delhi College of Art, and the pavements of Mandi House. “The idea is to encourage a dialogue between art and the common people. We are consciously keeping it outside art galleries,” says Ashok Bhowmick, a Delhi-based painter and JSM member, who has written a book on Abedin in Hindi, Akaal ki Kala Aur Zainul Abedin (2013). The prints are a part of his digital collection of the artist’s works.
At the event, Bhowmick presented a slideshow on Abedin’s Famine series. A mother is seen weeping over her dead child in one, another shows a malnourished family and equally famished stray dogs scampering for food from the same garbage dump.
After Partition, Abedin left for Dhaka, where he set up the Arts College despite opposition. Part of the language movement of 1952 and the Bangaldesh Liberation War of 1971, Abedin remained an activist all his life.