Marking the occasion of 'Amar Ekushey' and International Mother Language Day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina presented 'Ekushey Padak 2023' today to 19 eminent personalities and two organizations in recognition of their contributions to various fields. Eminent painter Kanak Chanpa Chakma received the honour for her contribution to painting.

The beloved and popular artist has cemented her legacy through breaking all social barriers over the years.

In an exclusive interview with UNB, the renowned artist articulated her feelings after being honoured with the country's second highest civilian award.

"Certainly, I'm thrilled to have this honour, and it feels amazing. I have won numerous awards, honours, and medals for my paintings all over the world, but I felt incredibly proud to be honoured with the Ekushey Padak at the state level," the revered artist told UNB.

Born in 1963 in a remote hill area named Tabal Chari in the Rangamati district, Kanak Chanpa received her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1986 from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University. She then attended Pennsylvania State University in the US from 1993 to 1994, where she was awarded a Mid-America Arts Alliance Fellowship. Having successfully completed her degree, she came back to Bangladesh.

"I think the greatest achievement for us, artists, is to attain respect in our own country," the artist said. "I think that this achievement has undoubtedly broadened my responsibilities, and I see this honour as a motivation to do better work, to give a more worthy contribution to our country's art."

Talking about her journey from Rangamati to the mainstream art scene in the country, she said that her path was not smooth at all. "Coming from such a remote area, I had to work hard. I have positioned myself in the mainstream art scene from where I started. I recognize this as a huge achievement."

"I had to proceed step by step throughout a difficult and lengthy process. In our world, nothing comes easily; in addition to talent and hard work, you must always be putting in more effort," she said.

A true ambassador of the Chakma community, Kanak Chanpa has been enlightening art enthusiasts about her roots and the community through her vibrant art.

"To be honest, I pursued my art very earnestly - and there was a constant motivational process going on within my soul. I never wanted to get lost in the mainstream scene after moving from the Hill Tracts. I knew I have to work hard, I have to build my position firmly, and I was able to do it with the help of those around me."

"And through me, today young artists from similar backgrounds as me are being benefited. I have presented artistic platforms to them through which they can develop themselves if they want and if they are focused. I think this is a big achievement for me as an artist and as a mentor."

Speaking about her other influential work, the artist said, "I have been working for the development of women of our society and their families in Bangladesh for many years now. Women have always been dominantly present as subjects in my works, and that applies not only to women from the ethnic communities but also to rural and urban women in general. I always think about the struggles and liberation of women. In this context, I am thinking about them, working for them for a long time."

Kanak Chanpa Chakma has been a constant in many art galleries in the country as an active painter, and she has participated in many artistic endeavors of Gallery Cosmos as well. With her ever-smiling face and congenial disposition, she has established her reputation as one of the most beloved and well-respected Bangladeshi artists in the global art community.

She thanked the state and the PM for honouring her with the second highest civilian award. "I am very happy that the state has considered me for this honour, especially I am very grateful to our honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for selecting me as worthy of this award. It will really take me further, and inspire me to do more. I am very grateful indeed," Kanak Chanpa said.

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