Vol. 4 Num 94 Fri. August 29, 2003  

Agony and ecstasy in painting and photography
"Innocence and anguish" held at Shilpakala Academy

The duo have done it again. Painter Kalidas Karmakar and photographer Enam-Ul Haque, childhood friends, have teamed up yet again to stir up Dhaka viewers. The venue is Shilpakala Academy and the sponsor is "Anannya", a fortnightly women's magazine. This time the exhibition titled "Innocence and anguish" is for a social cause: to help the acid victims as part of the sale proceeds will go to help women and children. While Kalidas has brought devastated women in his paintings, Enam has presented photos of happy Bangladeshi children. The exhibition is on for August 28 to September 8.

Kalidas has pondered over the anguish of women for quite some time although this is for the first time that he has put his brush to paper to express his concern for them. Everyday, in the news media there is bound to be some report of social victims of Bangladesh. "Twenty years ago such a news item," says Kalidas, "would stir up the reader or viewer, but today one has become blasť with it as the incidents are so frequent. Today such news blow up creates little impact on our minds. As an artist, I have some social commitment. I cannot go on painting beautiful scenes or delicate demoiselles without having a care for the maligned women too. Whatever takes place in our society has an impact in my own daily life, emotion and spirit."

A pretty girl is always happy with the image in the mirror, Kalidas says. But when this fine face is marred due to mischief and discontentment of some evil monger, this image is changed. The acid marred face cannot be the inspiration for the painter or poet. An ugly face is normally hidden from view in a society such as ours. The enforcement agencies and intellectuals, he says, are taking steps to stop this monstrosity but this evil has not been totally curbed. He says that the paintings will not be bought for display in the living rooms, but they will stir up feelings of sympathy, and should egg on the viewers to take some steps to stop this rampant evil that stalks our streets and homes.

Kalidas says, "Are we looking for beauty in our social life? It has been marred by the acid throwers in their venom and rage. I worked in mixed media, presenting sketches of exotic female faces at the bottom, with the upper portion depicting the ruination of delectable faces in paints, when blood and torn flesh is all one can see. I've tried to capture the evil in my own artistic way. If some viewers react and try to do something to stop the wrong, I believe that I shall have been successful."

Asked how he expected to raise the sum that he wanted for the cause by presenting maligned faces, the painter explains that these larger paintings are not ditto copies of acid burnt faces. The works, he says, are artistic representations of women, and when people buy art they should not go in for apparently pretty posters with obvious slogans. People should buy art for their artistic essence and the messages that a painting bears, he says. "Picasso's 'Guernica' is not a painting necessarily pleasing to the eye, as it is a depiction of the horror and stress of bombed European sections during World War 11, and yet it is one of the painter's best known works. Cathy Colvis, from Germany, who lost her son in World War 1, created pictures of lasting value based on her personal sorrow, "Kalidas points out. The painter's message is to stir up the souls and hearts of the viewers, and egg them on to take positive steps to put stop to acid throwing.

Dwelling on his experience on his recent trip, along with Enam, to the Far East, Kalidas says that the manner in which the Bangladeshi embassy in Singapore promoted their works should be an example to other such Bangladeshi embassies, in order to promote cultural exchanges, and to make the world aware of the cultural wealth to be found in Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Enam has expressed the innocence and joy of children in his contribution of 40 photographs to go with Kalidas's 40 paintings in the exhibit. Enam, as a conclusion to what Kalidas has to say, adds that he has focused on the portrayal of Bangladeshi contented children. "In many ways," he says, "Women and children, on whom the exhibition focuses, is the disadvantaged section of our society. I myself wish to highlight the fact that in our social life the young ones are more neglected than in any other. They are seen as more of a nuisance: people have little respect for them and they are often regarded as unwanted creatures. Not enough care is given to them, even sometimes in the sections of affluent societies. This wrong attitude should see a swift end."

Teaming up with painting and photography is quite unique in the Dhaka scene.