“M F Husain 2010 – The World is my Canvas” at Museum of Islamic Art, Doha



 
The work of India-born, Qatari artist Maqbool Fida Husain is important not just for the art world but for others in social sciences. Sumathi Ramaswamy, a professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, further said that it is important to catalogue work on the artist.
 
By Sarmad Qazi - Gulf Times
 
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She was speaking at the first academic conference on M F Husain at Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Doha.

The event coincided with the 95th birthday of the renowned artist, celebrated on September 17, and was organised by MIA, Qatar Foundation and as part of Doha – The Capital of Arab Culture 2010.

The event, “M F Husain 2010 – The World is my Canvas” concluded with the launch of a book analysing the significance of Husain’s life work, Barefoot across the Nation – M F Husain and the Idea of India and edited by Ramaswamy.

“The fundamental premise of the book is that M F Husain’s work is important not just for artistes or art historians, but for others who work in social sciences as well. There is input by historians as well as anthropologists in the book,” the academician told Gulf Times.

The book, according to her, is significant in that it is the first inter-disciplinary work on M F Husain.

“The majority of scholarly writings on M F Husain have been by artists or art critics or historians of art. It was important for others who work on India and the idea of India to have the book,” she said.

“We explore artwork as an inspiration to what India is like 60 years after becoming independent from the British and what it is today,” Ramaswamy added.

In the 200-page book, various authors argue that India, since independence, has been a plural, diverse, and complex place which has been able to accommodate all manner of cultural expressions.

“On the other hand, the arguments (in the book) have been that this India also has forces of Hindu domination and Hindu nationalism, which sets out to curtail rights of some individuals not of the majority,” Ramaswamy pointed out.

Several articles in the book look at the legal debate surrounding Husain, while Ramaswamy’s own work focuses on the artist’s use of India’s map in his works.

Ramaswamy is the author of The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Duke University Press 2010), among other numerous works.

“I am a cartography historian and Husain’s maps is how I actually got into his work,” she said. “I argue (in the book) that Husain is a modernist who is only paid attention to when it comes to the figure of the map of India, which, yes, is the most international icon in the way it represents India geographically and cartography.”

“But he’s also the only modernist with attention to the figure of Bharat Mata (Mother India). And the two come together in his images,” she added.

She is also co-founder of a trans-national digital network for popular South Asian visual culture called Tasveer Ghar (House of Pictures, tasveerghar.net).