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    Volume 9 Issue 3 | January 15, 2010|

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Guns and Roses

Biren Shome who caught the art lovers' eye way back in
the mid 70's, now marches on with a new theme.

Fayza Haq
Image 1971: Pen and Ink - 1993.

Admirable in numerous art mediums, Biren gushes on with this nouveau attempt that brings in the Liberation War. Why has Biren Shome moved on to this subject? Obviously to bring in the Ekushey theme -- with 21st February not far away. One naturally wonders if this egret -white hair- swinging artist of repute, has taken part himself, in the various attempts to throw off the yoke of the Pakistani rule.

In one passionate breath, without pausing or resting, sitting in Shilpangan Gallery, Dhanmandi, Biren, gets emotional. He speeds on with his explanation of his role as a rebel. Moving on from lyrical, soothing images of flora and fauna-- i.e. lovers, beauteous delectable women, ethereal flying parrots, images of old crumbing buildings --this introvert National Herbarium persona, talks about his days as a student in 1958.

A graduate of the Department of Fine Arts, Dhaka University, having studied under the eagle eyes of Rafiqun Nabi and Mamoudul Haque, the story of Biren Shome's role as a rebel may not be as remarkable, as, say, that of Qayyum Cahowdury, Hashim Khan -- or other flamboyant personalities of the local visual art world, who have examined numerous nooks and corners. Shome's breathless narrative captured one's imagination, and left some indelible marks on the mind. Bold and decisive in his own way, Biren spoke with care and precision on that chilly winter afternoon.

Dwelling on the Language Movement of 1958, and other integral inclusion of items like flags and guns, during the procession of Hamidur Rahman's 'Report', the artist was in Jamalpur in his teenage years. During a police action, at that time, he and his fellow students jumped into a river. Since that time, he was charged with the passion and determination to drive out oppressors, and save his country from foreign yoke.


Top Left: Tranquility after the ravages (Acrylic on canvas 2008). Top Right: Liberation War races on (Acrylic 2007). Bottom: Emotions of Ekushey (Acrylic 2007).

Weary of military rule, misrule and dictatorship, the artist waves his brush and pallet knife. This is his own fight, in his own way to bring in democracy once and for all. This Utopia may only be a dream in South Asia; but the artist tries his best, in his own dogged manner. In this display, the images, backdrops and forefronts may not charm all eagle eyes. But it does break any blasé attitude of other artistic efforts with the same theme. This presentation of a bygone event does wake one up from one's reverie and helps one escape in this pessimistic year -- with its fear of different types of dangers in the Dhaka metropolis. The pervading gloom is dispelled somewhat, i.e. Biren Shome has not churned out a Boston Tea Party. Yet, Biren has attempted to repeat an overwhelming picture of war and its consequences. Experiencing sacrifices and hell-bent drives, Biren Shome has brought in the important and unforgettable struggle for survival for people of Bangladesh.

Touching on the "Six Points Protest" of the late 60's, Biren Shome made posters with sketches, drawings, paintings in cartoon forms and calligraphy, as do so many teachers, students and thinking intelligentsia even today.

The artist believes in freedom of expression and not just any jingoist political call. He may not have gone as far as Delacroix or Courbet in his drive and determination . But he does have the same subject in mind as theirs.

Biren Shome , in the tete a tete at Shilpangan , touched on the role of his teachers. This included Rafiqun Nabi and Hashim Khan -- his mentors, he said ,with bursting pride -- that he had worked along with them from the 1958 "Ekushey" thrust -- the launching weapon of righteous indignation and rightful rebellion. Elaborating on the part played by his friends, acquaintances and family, during the historic 1971 War of Liberation, Biren Shome added,"We had no other choice but to flee -- trying to live to fight the next day. Somehow, in this pell-mell manner we reached Jamalpur, my original homestead.

"As the Pak army marched on -- with its mindless, merciless goal -- I and the rest of my extended family fled towards Sherpur. Here, on the border, near Jhenidah, there were aerial deadly brush fires from overhead planes; this led us to take the help of any sort. This included small boats, floating banana trunks, or any other possible support. This existence in Hades went on for innumerable days. The endless hell- on-earth existence continued for what appeared to be forever and a day. Flight and fright continued in vicious circles. Crossing the Brahmaputra River, we faced more dangers. Along with me were political agitators, like Utpal Kanti Dhar and Masum Ansari.”

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