Shahabuddin Ahmed, one of the most prolific artists of modern Bangladesh and also a freedom fighter who has reflected the undying spirit of liberation and Bangladeshi culture through his painting thinks the spirit of victory still rests within him.
“I was the one who hoisted Bangladeshi flag at then Pakistan Betar in the morning of December 16. We did not know that the Pakistani Army would surrender that very day but took over the radio station anyway. Till now that has been my moment of victory and I believe that spirit of victory is still with me,” said the internationally-famed painter.
In an Interview with UNB, Shahabuddin Ahmed shared glimpses of his journey to becoming a painter and gave insights about his works.
He recalled his actions as a freedom fighter during the liberation war of 1971.
“I took part in many operations. I was later made Platoon Commander. We faced the opposition in frontlines and carried out guerilla attacks as well. I am lucky that I made out alive,” he said.
Shahabuddin Ahmed told UNB about his journey as a painter.
“Since my childhood painting is my life. I won the President’s Gold Medal as a student. My journey as a painter started there because I might not have been able to enroll in Art College. My family was against it,” said the painter who again shed light on his involvement with Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Shahabuddin, one of the country’s best-known artist, said, Bangabandhu is like a father figure for him and really motivated him.
“I am lucky that Bangabandhu adored me. He himself said that I (Shahabuddin) must go to Paris for uplifting the art of Bangladesh abroad,” he said.
Following his visit to Paris, Shahabuddin travelled across Europe later to experience the paintings and other artworks of renowned artists.
His unique style of painting developed around this period as he wanted to start his work simple and put up the culture of Bengal through his paintings.
His use of space and portrayal of human actions has become the trademark. “I wanted to catch the speed and movement of people...I don’t like stiffness in artworks. I try to focus on actions,” he told UNB.
He mentioned that there is a clear distinction between Bangladeshi painting and Indian painting. “Paintings of Bangladeshi young artists have a ‘heated wave’ typed style in them. It represents the turbulent times before our independence and the glorious liberation war.”
As suggestions to the young artists of Bangladesh, Shahabuddin said one must love art to become a successful artist.
“You must love whatever form of art you’re interested about. Most valuable thing is the experience you gain,” he said adding that the downfall of an artist begins with the greed for money.
He also urged the would-be artists to be honest saying, “Honesty is the pillar. You must have it within.”
A protégée of late Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Shahabuddin is a revered national figure and recipient of the prestigious Independence Day Award from the Bangladesh government for his contribution as a freedom fighter in the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh.
In 2000, the government of Bangladesh hounoured Shahabuddin with 'Swadhinata Padak', while French government conferred upon him the prestigious civilian award Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts & Literatures) in 2014 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the nation’s cultural clique.
In 1992, he was one of the Fifty Master Painters of Contemporary Arts, an award bestowed on him at the Olympiad of Arts, Barcelona.
The Paris-based artist is also a recipient of one of France’s highest civilian honours. He has been significantly represented in exhibitions all across Europe and Asia. His spectacular creations are in collection of the Museum of Bourg-en-Bressein France, the National Museum of Bulgaria, the Olympic Museum of Lausanne in Switzerland, the Seoul Olympic Museum in Republic of Korea, the National Museum of Taiwan and Bangladesh National Museum other than in several noted private collections.