It was a bolt out of the blue to learn the sudden demise of artist Kalidas Karmakar in Dhaka on October 18, 2019, at the age of 73. The internationally acclaimed artist was an amiable personality who developed painting as an art par excellence indeed.
I came in close contact with Kalidas Karmakar while I was coordinating from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the director of cultural events of five countries during the first SAARC summit in December 1985 at Osmani Memorial Hall. If I remember correctly, the logo for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), developed by artist Kalidas Karmakar, was accepted by the administration.
However, while I was posted at Bangladesh mission in Kuala Lumpur in the mid-1970s as third secretary, Kalidas Karmakar got in touch with me with a request to organise his painting exhibition in the Malaysian capital. I then approached the Vice-Chancellor of Malay University in Kuala Lumpur who was connoisseur of fine art. Initially Vice-Chancellor Ungku Abdul Aziz asked me to show his paintings before giving permission to hold an exhibition of paintings of Kalidas Karmakar. The artist dispatched a few of his paintings to Kuala Lumpur for showing to the Vice-Chancellor who had gone through his paintings carefully and approved the proposal for exhibition on the campus of Malay University. Upon receipt of the approval, I invited Kalidas to visit Kuala Lumpur. He arrived in Kuala Lumpur after a week and spent about two weeks at our official residence at Jalan Yap Kuan Seng.
While Vice-Chancellor Ungku Abdul Aziz inaugurated the painting exhaustion, then Bangladesh Ambassador KM Safiullah was the chief guest. It was thrilling experience for Kalidas since many students flanked to have a look at his paintings. The Vice-Chancellor gave a pat on Kalidas Karmakar. On the concluding day of the exhibition, the then State Minister for Information chaired a session on the exhibition. Painting represents a new Bangladesh in the horizon.
It was great pleasure to receive a painting by Kalidas Karmakar before he left for Bangladesh. I also had the opportunity to attend the wedding ceremony of his elder daughter, Konka Karmakar, at Dhaka Ladies' Club sometimes in 1982.
Kalidas Karmakar was a proud citizen of Bangladesh. He won the Polish government scholarship in Graphic Art at Warsaw Academy of Fine Art, Warsaw University; French government Superior scholarship in Fine Arts for research in multicoloir etching at Atelier-17, Paris; Japan Foundation Fellowship on Japanese Woodblock Printing at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music; ICCR Special Scholarship for research in Contemporary Modern Sculpture, West Bengal Lalit Kala Academy Studio; and Asian Cultural Council, New York, Fellowship with Artist Residency programme in the US.
He was a unique artist that I noticed at Shilpakala Academy. During the course of painting competition in 1976, I saw Kalidas began painting on the floor of the Academy by using his finger of leg.
Kalidas Karmakar developed the technique of alluvial art for which he was awarded Shilpakala Padak. Kalidas also received the Ekushey Padak, apart from Sultan Gold Award.
There is no doubt that Kalidas Karmakar became a legendary internationally acclaimed painter during his lifetime.
Mohammad Amjad Hossain is a former diplomat from Bangladesh and ex-President of Nova Toastmaster International Club of America.
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