Tuesday, 5 July 2011

India's Picasso M. F. Husain, blended old and new worlds

From: The Australian (Copyright, All Rights Reserved)
June 14, 2011 12:00AM
M. F. Husain
Painter. Born India, September 17, 1915. Died London, June 9, aged 95.
M. F. HUSAIN, described as the Picasso of India, was one of the subcontinent's best known painters. His influence on contemporary South Asian art was enormous.

He started his career painting Bollywood billboards and latterly his vibrant artwork, a blend of modernism and classical Indian styles, sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. However, he outraged some Hindu groups with his portrayals of nude goddesses, some in suggestive poses, and he spent the last years of his life in self-imposed exile from India.

Maqbool Fida Hussain (he later changed the spelling of his last name) was born in 1915 in the last few decades of British rule in India and as a young man witnessed the turmoil and bloodshed of partition, from which India emerged with new borders. He was reared in a large Muslim family in Pandharpur in Maharashtra, central India. His father, Fida Hussain, a timekeeper in a mill who remarried after the early death of the boy's mother, was a strict disciplinarian, but his grandfather, who had been an oil lamp seller, encouraged Husain to paint by buying him sketchpads. He also encouraged Husain's love for horses, which appear in different forms in many of his works.

The family later moved to Indore and Husain was sent to boarding school in Baroda, in his holidays working in the family's general store. He continued to sketch and would sell his work on the streets.

After a successful sale in 1934, he decided to try his luck as an artist in Bombay (now Mumbai). There he began painting colourful billboards for Bollywood films, covering vast swaths of canvas in the heat to earn small amounts and living in a downtrodden area. He also painted toys and furniture and with his savings would make trips across the country to paint landscapes.

In 1947 he joined the avant-garde Progressive Artists' Group, founded in Mumbai by artist Francis Newton Souza, which strove to break away from the traditions of the Bengal school of art and evolve a language for contemporary Indian art, with its roots in the nation's culture but using modern techniques. In the early days the group, whose paintings initially were ignored in Bombay, would go out on to the street and paste posters on the walls.

Husain's first break came a few years later with a show at the Bombay Arts Society Salon where his canvases sold for 50 to 200 rupees. His work began to receive attention in Europe and later the US. However, unlike contemporaries such as Souza, he did not initially settle abroad but remained in India.

With his white hair and beard and a taste for expensive Hermes suits and walking barefoot, Husain cut a distinctive figure, full of energy and humour. He could produce hundreds of pieces of art a year and, always a nomad, would paint anywhere, from the street to hotel rooms, which he left splattered in colour. His work mixed bold colours and shapes, drawing inspiration from Indian history and mythology as well as curvaceous Bollywood actresses. A recent frieze of paintings at London's Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park, typically depicted everything from early gods to the colonial era to Mother Teresa, along with his response to the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, Rape of India.

His work became attractive to collectors and his influence on a younger generation of Indian artists was huge, with some calling him abba or grandfather and many considering him responsible for helping to bring modern Indian art to a global audience. During his time in Mumbai the number of art galleries swelled from a dozen to more than 30, while across India four museums were dedicated to his work. In 1955 he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri by the Indian government and in the 1980s was nominated to the upper house of the Indian parliament, while in 1971 he was invited, with Pablo Picasso, to the Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil.

However, even after critical success, he also enjoyed taking a series of 80 paintings portraying the Indian epic the Ramayana, that he had created across eight years, on bullock carts to villages near Hyderabad, where people looked at them spread out on the ground without question.

"In the city, people would have asked: 'Where is the eye?' and so on. In the villages, colour and form have seeped into the blood," he said.

In his search to link modern art with daily life in India, Husain also took on film projects. His first film, Through the Eyes of a Painter, won a Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival in 1967.

He also dabbled in making Bollywood films with stars such as Madhuri Dixit, who was also a muse, although these were less successful.

Husain had been painting for decades when in 1996 a Hindi magazine drew attention to his depictions of nude goddesses. Orthodox Hindu groups denounced his work as obscene, accusing him of painting Hindu goddesses in a "derogatory and vulgar" form. Militants attacked his home in Mumbai and sabotaged a showing of his work. A reward was even offered for his murder.

In 2006 he caused further outrage with his painting Bharatmata (Mother India), which depicted the shape of the Indian map as a kneeling, naked woman. He apologised and promised to withdraw the painting from a charity auction. But after death threats and facing criminal charges for offending Hindu religious sentiment, Husain left India in 2006, saying the country had failed to uphold the right of expression. He divided his time between Dubai and London.

The controversy over his paintings touched on a deep-running dispute over the role of Hinduism - and religion in general - in modern, secular India and although Husain had many supporters his critics continued to speak out against his work. In 2008 one Hindu group demanded that the auction house Christie's withdraw Husain's work Battle of Ganga and Jamuna, Mahabharata 12 from its New York sale and threatened to stage a demonstration. Christie's refused and the work went on to break a world auction record for any contemporary Indian painting, selling for $US1,609,000.

In 2008, after many legal cases had been filed against him, India's Supreme Court ruled Husain's paintings were not obscene and that nudity was a common part of Indian iconography. Despite promises from Indian government ministers that they would provide protection for him if he returned to India, last year Husain accepted Qatari citizenship, saying he wished to paint in peace and comfort. "At the age of 40 I would have fought this tooth and nail," he said. "But at this age I just wanted to concentrate on my work. I didn't want any type of disturbance."

He moved between Doha, where he had a studio, and London, where he kept a home in Knightsbridge and often spent time painting and reading in the British Library. He continued to insist that no matter where he lived he would always remain an "Indian-born painter". He was painting until shortly before his death and was visiting London for a sale of three of his paintings when he was taken into hospital. He had recently created 50 giant canvases inspired by the Bollywood movie Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Husain was predeceased by his wife, Fazila, whom he met in 1940 while painting the billboard for the Bollywood film Zindagi. He is survived by six children. One child predeceased him.

The Times

Dutch blamed for Srebrenica deaths

Islam and the Arab Revolutions

by Yusra Tekbali
Yusra Tekbali works with humanitarian and media organizations in the Middle East, North Africa region. She is currently based in Cairo.
Published in the Huffington Post (All Rights Reserved, Copyright)

There is a verse in the Holy Quran that captures what is happening in the Arab world today.

"Truly, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." (13:11).

That verse was often cited by ordinary Muslims, scholars and apathetic youth before the revolutions; now it takes on a different meaning, as people all over the Arab world are demanding more rights and changing their societies.

During the secular, Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, protestors, hipsters, trendsetters, and individuals, filled the streets and TV screens, but that didn't deter protestors from praying in Tahrir or many others from shouting Islamic slogans as rallying cries, and in some cases calling for more religion in their societies. In the Arab world, religion and politics are intertwined. Take for example, The Muslim Brotherhood, which is the most organized opposition movement in Egypt, with influential branches in Tunisia, Libya and Syria. Their campaign to convince the west (and Egyptian voters) that they reject violence, support women and believe in democracy may make many Muslims and non-Muslims nervous, but it also might just signify a change in the Islamic philosophy of so-called extremist groups.

In Benghazi and throughout Libya, revolutionaries passionately cling to Islam as just and Gaddafi as unjust as they countered his phrase "Allah, Gaddafi, and Libya" with "Allah, His Messenger and Libya". Many Libyan refugees I speak with called Gaddafi's army "blind", referring to Quranic verse, "Whoever is blind in this life, he will be blind in the hereafter; straying further away from the path" (17:72).

In Syria and Bahrain "Allahu Akbar" or God is Great is used by Muslim protestors who believe God is greater than the crimes of their government. On Twitter and Facebook, young people profess their belief in Islam alongside their belief in democracy, and frequently post verses from the Holy Quran that reference injustice, oppression and patience.

There is a big difference between the terms Islamic and Islamist, which revolutionary youth are not, but their unhappiness and frustration is directly related to their desire for better treatment and dignity, which Islam preaches. Youth in the Arab revolutions demanded society stop pretending that the status quo is acceptable; the implications that has on religion cannot be overlooked.

At a discussion on sexual harassment in Cairo, women often brought up Islam, arguing that if Arab men followed it right, they wouldn't be groped in the street and Egyptian police would think before taking free passes to insult a woman's dignity-something not encouraged by Islam. During protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, women arrested by the Egyptian police were forced to undergo 'virginity tests.' According to Amnesty International, the women were "beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to 'virginity checks' and threatened with prostitution charges."

In Libya, Syria, and Bahrain dictator's men ignore all aspects of Islam's emphasis on modesty, human dignity and and respect for women, as women are humiliated and raped and forced to flee to preserve their dignity.

In Yemen, niqab-clad women led protests and called for reform, squashing the male-dominated discourse. In Saudi Arabia, women speak of Islam to support their right to drive, even as the government misuses its authority to crack down on women drivers. Others in The Kingdom cite Islamic teachings of obeying a ruler to counter the revolution and calls to topple the king. "The best Jihad is speaking the truth to an unjust ruler," may be appropriately used to discourage people from taking up arms even as it completely ignores the government's crimes.

Islam will not find a balance in the changing Arab society, or with the modern democratic world, until Muslims take responsibility of their own lives. This is what the uprisings are about. The millions of youth protesting want control over their own life. And old autocrats addicted to power refuse to give it.

Islam (and religion in general) has always been manipulated by those seeking power, but the Arab Revolutions suggest that Muslims' perceptions of Islam are changing not only the power-struggle but the fundamental discourse- something we cannot continue to overlook.

Young Arabs, the ones that started the upheaval, the ones protesting in the streets, and the ones beginning to rebuild and actively engage in the affairs of their country, cannot accept the Islam that's been forced upon them by despotic regimes. They are more connected to Muslims in democratic societies around the world, who enjoy individual freedom, even as they choose to practice their faith collectively. Arab youth are simply more in tune with the rest of the world, and this connection -- the constant flow of information and ideas -- will directly influence the way Islam is understood in post-revolution societies.

In "Hill Diaries," my essay in the critically acclaimed anthology "I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim," I write about the dichotomy between religion and politics in Washington and its effect on individual identity. In the Arab world, the same dichotomy exists, and young Muslims, whether they realize it or not, are impacting the lives of Muslims and the understanding of Islam, in their societies and around the world.

HIV Aids imported from Foreign Countries: Azad

Monday, 4 July 2011

4th of July Celebrations

...my three way allegiance is put to the test today...felicitations on this 4th of July folks from this Scottish Pakistani professor who lives in Miami Beach! I'll be at a jazz concert and then watching the fireworks over the ocean tonight!