Art Exhibition

The Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA) presents Shakila’s body of work in a titular show at Bihar Museum

The inspirational story of artist Shakila making a mark in contemporary art is known to many but her large body of work has never been showcased outside Kolkata. For the first time, the Centre of International Modern Art in collaboration with Bihar Museum, Patna is showcasing over 30 of her artworks at the Museum in the show titled ‘SHAKILA artworks from 1993 – 2024’ from April 13 to May 5.

Shakila started her life on the pavements of Kolkata. Deserted by her husband, Shakila’s mother Jaheran Bibi sold vegetables in one of the city markets. She worked extremely hard to bring up her three daughters. But when the world oppresses, there is often an invisible hand that protects and shields. In Jaheran’s life, that force arrived in the guise of B.R. Panesar, a sensitive, bright and philanthropic soul. In his spare hours, Panesar helped the children who lived on the pavement alongside the YMCA. He did the same with Shakila and her siblings.

However, Shakila was married at 12 to a vegetable vendor. Life was indeed hard for her but then at the age of 16, she felt the desire to earn a living and support her family. With Panesar’s help, she found a job as a paper bag supplier. Her first brush with paper started here as she turned paper into bags. Eventually driven by a deep desire to create, she started creating paper collages, as she had watched Panesar paint and do collages with paper. There was no looking back for her after that.

“When CIMA started in 1993, Panesar approached me to help represent Shakila. CIMA organised her first show in collaboration with the World Bank; our friend, Bim Bissell, was the force behind it all, as she was working there at the time. Given Shakila’s special case, the World Bank permitted us to sell her works. Out of the 30 works Shakila presented, 29 were sold instantly,” recalls Rakhi Sarkar, Director of the CIMA gallery.

Thereafter, regular group shows started happening, followed by two major breakthroughs. Shakila was the only visual artist selected by the India Festival authorities at the Galeries Lafayette, Paris, in 1995, and commissioned in 2000 Shakila’s art continues to trace light during moments of utter darkness.

“The story of Shakila is a deeply inspirational chronicle of an emerging woman of our subcontinent – from extreme poverty and suffering, she rose to a creative resurgence and ultimate triumph. I feel humbled and immensely proud of her. She has repeatedly

restored our hope and faith in the power and magic of the visual medium and its ability to uplift, inspire and sustain creative excellence and human dignity. Shakila does not pontificate or judge. Her art is all about light and shadow, at the confluence of reality and the invisible,” she adds.

Over the years, she has won several awards, accolades and honours. She emerged as a beacon of light for all underprivileged women. She rose above religion, caste and creed, and restored hope and creative freedom in an acrimonious age fraught with social constraints and violence against women. Shakila started off with a charming naïveté and humour, but the hypocrisies and vagaries of life imbued her works with an occasional darkness. She internalised her experiences and finally sublimated them into immensely poignant expressions – resplendent with subtle humour and sensitivity, hitting out silently yet forcefully, whenever her conscience and creative instincts beckoned. Her works are genuine reflections on her life and times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Exit mobile version