As Poet Ashok Vajpeyi Says, ‘Raza Was Always In Love, With The World, With Colours, With Art, With Poetry, With Friends’

I greeted the sun and asked it to smile at you.”

This just isn’t a line from Pablo Neruda’s love poems however from a love letter written by Sayed Haider Raza to a fellow French artist, Janine Mongillat, who he fell in love with in 1952, and married in 1959. The iconic painter’s love letters, written in French, have been introduced out in English translation by The Raza Foundation in collaboration with Vadehra Art Gallery.

Raza was born on February 22, 1922, in Babaria, Madhya Pradesh, and his centenary 12 months is being celebrated in India by his mates and admirers. Two beneficial books on his life and work have been launched this 12 months up to now. Well-known artist Akhilesh, who knew Raza very carefully, has written a e book in Hindi titled Raza: Jaisa Maine Dekha (Raza: As I Saw Him) and revealed by Rajkamal Prakashan. HarperCollins India have introduced out the first-ever biography of Raza, penned by famend artwork critic Yashodhara Dalmia, titled Sayed Haider Raza: The Journey of an Iconic Artist. Last 12 months, a revised model of eminent artwork scholar Geeti Sen’s 1997 e book Bindu: Space and Time in Raza’s Vision was introduced out by the Raza Foundation in collaboration with Mapin Publishing.

Raza had a deep bond with Sanskrit and Hindi literature. His household in Damoh (Madhya Pradesh) needed to undergo the trauma and tribulations of Partition in 1947 and transfer to Lahore. His elder brother Yusuf Raza had accomplished his research in Sanskrit and labored as editor of the Hindi newspaper Vishwamitra. But as tensions mounted in Damoh and their home was burnt, the household needed to depart and stay in refugee camps in Bhopal and Bombay earlier than departing for Pakistan. But Raza determined to remain again. Dalmia quotes him in her e book: “Even though the Partition was a tragedy in my eye, I decided to stay and I never regretted staying back. I am happy to have kept my name, my religion, my passport and to remain an Indian even after fifty-two years in France.” Raza returned to India in 2010 after the dying of the love of his life — Janine.

After early education in Damoh, Raza joined the Nagpur School of Arts. In 1943, he was awarded a scholarship to check on the Sir J.J. School of Arts in Bombay. It was in Bombay that he was roped in by Francis Newton Souza — the younger Goan artist who had been expelled from the J.J. School for taking part in demonstrations towards the exploitative colonial practices of the British — to type the now legendary Progressive Artists’ Group together with Maqbool Fida Husain, Ok.H. Ara, S.Ok. Bakre and H.A. Gade. Though shortlived, this group performed a historic function in looking for a very ‘Indian’ artwork language that would specific the aspirations of a nascent nation that had shaken off the colonial yoke. “The real common denominator for us,” mentioned Raza later, “was significant form. We were expressing ourselves differently, we had different visions during the early days but what was common was a search for significant form.”

Akhilesh has described very intimately and endearingly how Raza was at all times encouraging and galvanizing younger artists and the way he learnt from him to focus on colors, how he watched Raza making use of black color to begin a recent portray and the way he learnt to delve deep into the mysteries of black. We study from Dalmia that Raza fell in love together with his first cousin Fatima in Damoh and persuaded his aunt (mom’s sister) to marry her daughter to him. The marriage that was solemnised in 1942 fell aside in 1959. Soon after his marriage, Raza left for Bombay to check at J.J. School after which for Paris on a scholarship. Fatima departed for Pakistan alongside together with her household. Raza realised that she couldn’t empathise with a husband who was struggling as a younger artist and had her personal aspirations. Then, in Paris, he fell in love with Janine and have become steadily satisfied that he had discovered a like-minded companion in her.

While Dalmia says that Raza didn’t invite his spouse, Fatima, to Paris regardless of many pleadings from her, his mother-in-law and different kinfolk, Akhilesh says that he did invite her many occasions however she by no means got here due to her attachment to her father. He additionally makes a point out of a police case registered towards Raza in Pakistan charging him with not caring for his spouse, thus resulting in the arrival of a posse of French police to his home. As Raza had saved all of the receipts of the cash despatched to her, the police withdrew after apologising. Soon after, Raza married Janine.

Raza was deeply involved in Hindi literature and had many mates amongst high Hindi writers, together with poet Ashok Vajpeyi. He was maybe the one painter to inscribe strains from Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit poetry in his work.

Raza’s early work have been figurative however he steadily gravitated in direction of the summary and obtained particularly within the yogic and tantric idea of ‘Bindu’ (level or dot) that may also be interpreted as shoonya (void). Geeti Sen explains how Raza, impressed by the Ragamala work, introduced literature, music and portray collectively. He additionally had mates amongst musicians and was significantly near the U.Ok.-based sitar maestro Mahmud Mirza for whom he organised a particular live performance at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, a couple of years earlier than his dying in 2016. As Vajpeyi says, “Raza was always in love, with the world, with colours, with art, with poetry, with friends. All his works could justifiably be read as love letters to the world… but his real love was his art.”

One hopes that Raza’s centenary celebrations can even show to be a celebration of artwork and the grandeur of black might be appreciated in these darkish occasions.

The author is a senior Hindi poet and journalist who writes on politics and tradition.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here