Shakila’s journey: Extreme poverty to creative triumph : The Tribune India

Join Whatsapp Channel

Shakila’s journey: Extreme poverty to creative triumph

Shakila’s rise from the streets of Kolkata to international platforms is phenomenal

Shakila’s journey: Extreme poverty to creative triumph

A Scene. Collage on canvas, 2007.



Monica Arora

This is a story of an artist whose life has more twists and turns than a quintessential Bollywood potboiler. Her journey from the streets of Kolkata to the hallowed portals of white cube art galleries is nothing short of spectacular. Shakila was born to Jaheran Bibi and spent her early years growing up on the pavement along with her two sisters. She was married off to Akbar, a vegetable seller, when she was only 12, and life kept on throwing up challenges. A silver lining emerged in the form of BR Panesar, a kind-hearted philanthropist-artist, who helped street children in tandem with Young Men’s Christian Association. When he came in touch with Jaheran, he took her three girls under his tutelage. When Shakila turned 16, Panesar enabled her to find a job as a paper-bag maker and this tryst with creativity led her to dabble with painting. She was deeply inspired by her mentor and started making collages with paper.

Untitled - V, Collage on canvas, 2011

As her work evolved, Panesar showcased some of Shakila’s collages at the Society of Contemporary Artists. People were enamoured by her creative vision, and one thing soon led to another. Notably, from 1991 till now, she has had five solo shows and been part of over 30 group shows in Kolkata. Her recently concluded show, ‘Shakila: Artworks from 1993-2024’, at the Bihar Museum, which was presented by the Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), was her first exhibition beyond Kolkata.

She credits Panesar for what she is today. “He was the driving force behind my art. Not only did he supply stationery and colours to me and other street children, he would also take me to see various exhibitions and workshops with him. He would ask me to compete with myself,” she says. Encouragement also came from artists such as Bikash Bhattacharjee, Ganesh Pyne and MF Husain.

Shakila’s work reflects life. “Whatever happens around seeps into my work. I’ve created many works on the atrocities against women and children, besides the villagers, who are at a crossroads of political games in rural India,” she says. If one were to observe her oeuvre, one encounters an element of intrigue. The play of a multitude of hues and moods sets each creation apart from the next. Each work, with its rough edges, offers a kaleidoscope of musings on real life, making it compelling and evocative.

She has received recognition for her two decades of work by the Academy of Fine Arts, the Indian government and UNESCO. She was the only artist selected by the India Festival authorities at Paris by Galeries Lafayette in 1995, and was commissioned in 2000 by the Hannover Fair in Germany to create some hundred installation pieces.

CIMA director Rakhi Sarkar says, “Shakila’s story 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. She has repeatedly restored our faith in the power and magic of the visual medium and its ability to uplift, inspire and sustain creative excellence and human dignity. Her art is all about light and shadow, at the confluence of reality and the invisible.”

#Bollywood


Top News

Amit Shah directs security agencies to implement area domination, zero-terror plans in Jammu division on lines of Kashmir

Terror in J-K has shrunk from highly organised acts to mere proxy war: Amit Shah

A high-level meeting is convened to review the security situ...

Fresh political slugfest over EVM tampering claims; defamation notice issued to newspaper by poll body

Fresh political slugfest over EVM tampering claims; defamation notice issued to newspaper by poll body

Vandana Suryavanshi, returning officer of the constituency, ...

India refrains from associating itself with any communique emerging from Swiss summit on peace in Ukraine

India refrains from associating itself with any communique emerging from Swiss summit on peace in Ukraine

Pavan Kapoor, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External A...

BJP leaders vandalised Delhi Jal Board office, alleges AAP minister Saurabh Bharadwaj

Atishi accuses former BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri of leading attack on DJB office, claims conspiracy

Hitting back, Bidhuri says Atishi should first tell why the ...


Cities

View All