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      Volume 10 |Issue 30 | August 05, 2011 |


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Nostalgia, Dreams and Daring

Fayza Haq

Naima Haque

Naima Haque is a senior professor at the Department of Art (DU), who is in her early fifties. Speaking to Naima and her artist husband Naseem Ahmed Nadvi in their dream-like house, surrounded by green, waving, plants at the Link Road, leading up to Manik Miah Avenue at one end, and Indira Road at another, one feels rejuvenated and spellbound.

Touching on her writings, Naima Haque speaks about how she has tried to reflect politics, and socio-economic situation of Bangladesh. Like cartoonist Rafiqun Nabi, and Shishir Bhattacharya, Naima, in her five story books of poems for children has had a tongue in cheek approach. Naima has used her talent and artistic education to create a “Nakshikanthar Maath”, which has brought history, geography, literature and blended the three with science. The work is both energetic and imaginative.

There is nothing déjà vu about her books—although aiming at children. The humour and wit that has punched her painting and illustration leave us with wonder and imagination. The message is pithy and powerful. In her own subtle way, Naima carries out her work in the footsteps of Simone de Beauvoir — like other women artists of her time, like Laila Nazli, Farida Zaman and Rokeya Sultana. Their messages have been simple, direct and compelling. Naima with her powerful brush strokes has created dancing women; men with stringed instruments, people astride the elephant with “howdah” — with trunk reaching out to the food carried by the rider. The fight for the rights for equality and the mother and child themes are predominant in Naima's sketches and paintings.

Motherhood 3, water colour. Photos: courtesy

Naima, who is an illustrator, free-lance artist cum teacher at the Institute of Fine Arts DU, did her Masters in Graphics Design from Barodha. Her teachers in India included Jairam Patel and Sant, while her guides in Bangladesh were Aminul Islam, Abdul Basset, and Rafiqun Nabi. "I was in the batch with Farida Zaman and Shamim Shikdar", she says. "I wanted to study painting but was compelled to study graphics as my arrival at Barodha was late due to some red tape. I had a lot of encouragement for preparing my final presentation portfolio. As graphics was not my choice, I treated the subject as a challenge. When I told my teacher that I didn't think much of graphics as I'd seen my teachers doing illustrations as a secondary pastime in Dhaka, this provoked one of my teachers. Back home, our teaching was often mostly academic, but alongside, they had also encouraged experimentation."

Earlier on Naima didn't think much of illustrations but later she realised that it was parallel to painting. The only difference was that in graphics one waited for the client to give the subject."

Hashem Khan, Rafiqun Nabi and Qayyum Chowdhury, in their paintings illustrated their experiences and thoughts, bringing in scenes dear to their hearts. “Similarly, in illustrating, I also put in my own feelings and not just what the clients dictate," says Naima

Asked about how the women artists fared vis- a- vis their male counterparts, Naima says that there is a constant tussle between the sexes. When scholarships are selected, men are preferred, as the authorities feel that opportunities are wasted on women who end up rearing children and tending the home, she says.

She is comfortable in any media, whether it be oil or acrylic or water- colour or even crayon. She loves to vary her style. "In my compositions I'm saying something. The colour and forms communicate to many. When artists sometimes don't care to reach out to all levels, they paint according to their own wishes, without much care for the viewers," Naima says.

After her battle in the world of graphics, she came home to take up the role of a mother. Thus she had a break in her creative work and found it difficult to paint and draw. Painting is something like singing, she says. If you don't practice lines, colours won't flow freely from your hand, she comments. However, today the rooms in her home are overflowing with her creations.

Talking about patrons and critics, she says, "A critic can create and destroy artists. Similarly, the support of patrons is necessary in the life of an artist to survive."

(S)He 1, mixed media. Photo: courtesy

Naima had attended a workshop at the Sculpture Dept in the Arts College. It was organised by Tayaba Begum Lipi's avant garde group, BRITTO, based in UK. She did some work at home and some overtime at the Art College. The lines and strokes in her paintings bring in the female figure set against nature. Naima's much admired recent painting of The Hill Tracts woman, sitting pensively and quietly reminiscing, while smoking a pipe, use minimum of strokes, and yet aesthetic beauty is foremost in mind. The lines are stylised. “When I was a little more than a student, I wanted to present the unacceptable attitude of society against women,” says Naima. “I wanted to use bold, clashing lines, harsh, dramatic colours — to send home the message. Yet, at the end I realised that my angst could be expressed in a more subtle way— without bringing in violence and anger to the mind— and as a result the art piece. One can express passionate feelings, without violence entering image in mind. One can be outspoken and bold, but in a genteel manner.”

The sharp lines that Naima has used include wriggles and curves. Her figures are not necessarily realistic. The lines express the danger and discomfort that a woman feels, sometimes in our society. For most women, anywhere in the world, life is not an idyll. She has, sometimes to not only take care of the hearth and home, but also win the bread and butter. She cannot dream her gentle dreams in some garret, like Van Gogh, or “ivory tower”, so to put it. In the name of industrial progress, nature is being destroyed. Natural and man-made hazard are more common than before. A woman has to put aside her feelings and emotions, as she goes about her painting, as she must sell her work in the art market— in order to be the provider and homemaker, at the same time. A female artist's counterpart remains the lord of the manor. Many a times, Naima admits, she would have liked to have given her children more time. This feeling of “being taken for granted” comes out in her paintings and sketches.

“I've worked in various mediums,” says the artist. This includes mixed media, acrylic, and water colour. Print making used to be my forte once. After print-making and painting I wanted to try my hand at sculpture. The Art College authorities had no place to store or preserve this work, which is why my work is sometimes damaged, due to lack of care, says Naima. “Sometimes I've brought sculpted forms in my paintings,” she adds.

Naima has exhibited her works extensively — in Russia, Germany, Japan and India. Her painting collections are there in USA, UK and Africa. She has received four prizes for her picture books from Japan. As a student she got an Institute of Fine Arts award, DU, in 1975.



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