Our liberation war is our pride. Our independence was hard-earned.
People from all walks of life took part in the war to free their motherland from the unethical governance and exploitation of Pakistani dictators.The nation remembers the contribution of the brave national heroes: both who sacrificed their lives or not, with due respect and love. As it is the most important and glorious part of the history of Bangladesh, many movies and plays are made, many books are written and many articles and journals are published based on the Liberation War.
These movies, plays, books, articles and journals depict the brutality of Pakistani army as well as the transformation of a peace-loving nation into a rebellious nation to save their existence. As it was the war of people, people belonging to different groups such as students, farmers, day labourers, teachers and artists participated in the war.
So many groups and individuals contributed to the liberation war but not all of them have been recognized properly. For example -- we remember the role of the artistes of ‘Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra’ with proper admiration as they inspired our freedom fighters with their music. They were fighting against the Pakistanis with their tone. But we hardly know and recognize the contribution of the painters of that time despite the fact that they also took part in the war with their brushes. The fact is that very few people know about the contributions of the visual artists.
Renowned painters, namely Zainul Abedin, Quamrul Hassan, Nitun Kundu, Debdas Chakraborty, Nasir Biswas, Pranesh Mandal and Biren Shome, used their brushes properly to protest against the oppression of Pakistanis. Their piece of arts played a vital role in inspiring the Bangalee people. The posters, festoons and banners painted by these artists motivated our people to raise their voice against Pakistani rulers. They had painted and wrote many posters, festoons and banners during every single important movement in the 60s. Every sketch of these artists was similar to an explosive to the Pakistani rulers. As a result, Pakistani army raided Dhaka Art College and other parts of Dhaka city on March 25, 1971. Later some of the artists went to Kolkata to save their lives and started working for the sake of a sovereign Bangladesh.
On March 26, 1971, some of the artists took part in a procession carrying pro-liberation placards in their hands under the leadership of Zainul Abedin and Begum Sufia Kamal under the banner of “Charu O Karu Shilpi Songram Porishod”. In that procession they were carrying cartoons, caricatures, slogans and posters drawn by Rafiqun Nabi, Hashem Khan and others.
During the liberation war a team of artists tried to draw the attention of rest of the world by sketching monogram of independent Bangladesh, stamps, posters, banners, cartoons and leaflets, as instructed by the provisional government’s Ministry of Information and Publicity, under the leadership of Quamrul Hassan. Besides, Mustafa Manwar, Swapan Chowdhury, Golam Mowla and others visited different camps and participated in different programmes to entertain the hopeless people and inspired them.
Legendary painter Zainul Abedin was inside the country during the Liberation War. He saved his life by hiding himself on December 14, 1971, when the Pakistani army killed Bangladeshi intellectuals. Though his life was in serious danger but he was continuing his fight using his weapon: brush and colour. His painting titled ‘Soronarthi’ depicted the scary situation of people crossing the border to enter the safe zone. Through this art work he portrayed the brutality and massacre carried out by Pakistani army. Another sketch named ‘Muktijuddho’ portrayed a team of freedom fighters going ahead with confidence to win the battle. He used black brush in this sketch as a symbol of mourning and hatred. This piece of art was very much inspiring for the brave warriors. He refused a title given by Pakistani government to express his solidarity with the freedom fighters.
Another artist Quamrul Hassan also contributed to our glorious Liberation War. When Pakistani atrocious army raided the Bangalee people, he drew a caricature of Yahya Khan with the tagline ‘this animal should be killed’. This caricature was placed in front of Shaheed Minar for screening. During the Liberation War he was the head of Ministry of Information and Publicity of the provisional government. So, he kept inspiring mass people through his art works.
There were many other artists who played important roles during the war in 1971. Prominent artist Aminul Islam made an oil-painting named ‘Gonohotya’ portraying hundreds of martyrs to show the brutality of Pak army. Moreover a number of sketches by eminent artist Mustafa Manwar for the novel ‘Jahannam Hote Biday’ by Shawkat Osman were very impressive. In the canvas he depicted Pak army’s cruelty, rape scenes and the fearful faces of Bangalee people. Renowned artist of Bangladesh Qayyum Chowdhury also painted a huge number of pictures on our Liberation War. Many of these were sketched during the war. Rafiqun Nabi, a young painter of that time, was confined during the entire war and was passing his day in dismay. From his first-hand experience he drew an image named ‘Bijoy’. He used the figure of an elephant to glorify the significance of freedom. Another young painter of that time was Swapan Chowdhury who portrayed the war scenes using colour, brushes and pencils.
Apart from individual attempts, a group of artists who were living in Kolkata during the liberation war arranged an exhibition titled ‘Paintings and Drawings of Bangladeshi Artist’ at ‘Birla Academy’, Kolkata, in September 1971, to expose the brutality of Pakistani army before the whole world. It is mentionable that Indian artists of that time helped Bangladeshi artists to arrange such an exhibition. This exhibition that ended on September 13 was important in consideration of time. 66 paintings of 17 artists were displayed at the exhibition. The entire world came to know about the carnage launched by Pakistani Army through that exhibition.
In short, the artists not only depicted the Liberation War in their artworks in 1971, rather they drew many more sketches later based on the themes of liberation war. Some of them created some of their best works being inspired by the sacrifices of mass people during the liberation war. It is true that some of our artists, namely Abul Barak Alvi, Swapan Chowdhury and Sahabuddin, participated in the war directly, but some other artists who did not take part in the war directly also proved that the colours and brushes can be a great weapon to fight back as well.