‘M.F. Hussain’s Departure is a Loss to India,’ says Bangalore art community
By dhanushag | Published: March 04 2010
The much controversial departure of India’s iconic artist M.F. Hussain to Qatar has Indians questioning the state of democracy in the country.
MF Hussain bids farewell to India.
Nonagenarian artist M.F. Hussain who is iconic to the Indian art scene accepted Qatari citizenship recently. He has been often quoted as the Pablo Picasso of India. After, and after a long, successful career his work suddenly became controversial in 1996, when he was 81 years old, following the publication of an article about nude images of Hindu deities painted in the 1970s. Following death threats and legal actions, Hussain went into exile. There were 1,250 cases pending against him all over India. But all were squashed aside and only 3 of them are remaining.
MF HUssain's controversial painting.
Hussain said in an interview with NDTV that the reason why he left the country is to work on three major projects. The history of Indian civilization from Mohenjedaro to Manmohan Singh, History of other civilizations dating back to Babylon and cinema which is close to his hear. “Cinema is my love - 100 years of Indian cinema, it would be completing 100 years next year. So, I wanted to do these projects in India but there are so many obstacles you know, it is not easy to work. First there is also the question of finding a sponsor. So, I was waiting, this I decided in 2004 when I came to Dubai to find some sponsor. So, in London I found a sponsor for history of Indian civilization and in Qatar, Sheikha Mozah invited me to do a history of other civilizations and Abu Dhabi will sponsor the project on Indian Cinema, I think in a big way next year” he said with an interview with Ndtv’s Barkha Dutt. Hussain said that had he been 40, he would have fought them tooth and nail. “But here I want to focus only on my work, I don't want any disturbance. I need all comforts and facilities to the maximum”
MyBangalore caught up with some Bangalore based artists and art gallery owners taking their opinion on the issue with Hussain, and the future of artists in the country. Many of them said that the situation if continues like this is very bleak for younger artists. Bangalore based artists have held the government responsible for not taking Hussain’s side, and keeping mum about the entire issue.
Renowned painter and sculptor, Yusuf Arakkal said, “Hussain sahab is like a father figure to me. I’ve known him for almost 30 years. When I was studying at Chitrakala Parishad he stayed in our house. We have a small bungalow in Guruvayoor, and he had stayed there when he came to visit. So I’ve known him for a really long time. I wasn’t unduly influenced by his work, and I would talk to him regularly. At least once in a month, I would call or meet him. It’s a loss to India and it’s unfortunate that he has to take up this decision. In the sense it’s our loss, whatever be the reason ultimately it is a cultural loss of this country. Tomorrow my grand daughter is going to say Hussain is a Qatari, not an Indian. We’ve taken away something from tomorrow’s generation”
Nilofer Suleman Nilofer Suleman
, popular artist said, “What was done was completely unfair, the government should have been done something about it. Feel very awful about the whole thing and they should have done something to protect him. Nobody did anything, and this issue has been in play for such a long time. Why would we want to loose someone so important? For an artist, there has to be a lot of creative freedom. On the other hand, one doesn’t need to offend any community, it’s not right to make any kind of verbal statement against any religion”
Well known photographer, Shibu Arakkal
said, “I personally think we are a make believe democracy. He is not done or painted something that our country has not seen, it’s very much a part of our social culture. I think all of this is done for political brownie points, and if artists can’t express themselves freely, and people can’t stand with them, the scene is definitely not looking good for younger artists. Art is very important for the society, after everybody has made the money, they will eventually come to art, because that’s the last teacher. It will put everything into perspective. And honestly, Hussain is 100 times bigger than any of the politicians in the country. At the end of the day, it’s not his loss, it’s ours”
Essmath Khaleeli Esssmath Khaleeli, Apparao Art Gallery
, said, “Art is a medium where things are always subjective. It is one of the few spaces in the world where artists can get away with anything, it’s not the government’s place to decide how an artists work needs to be. But, here you are taking away from people the freedom of speech, which is one of your fundamental rights in the constitution. Artists are different kind of people, and in this case there is much ado about nothing. I think things have to be put into perspective. We’ve got naxals here, and what is the government doing about potholes, what are they doing about naxalites, why are they going behind one M.F. Hussain. We have a lot of problems that are bigger than him, why is he being given such an undue importance for one”