Zainul Abedin: famine pictures

One of my greatest discoveries on my visit to Bangladesh’s National Museum were the pictures of Zainul Abedin, who is regarded as the father of modern Bangladesh painting. Born in 1914 he’s most famous for his charcoal drawings of the 1943 Bangladesh famine. There are many of them in the National Museum, and their power caught me.


Our guide told us that the famine was caused by the British in order to get Bengalis to fight for them in the Second World War. The account in Wikipedia suggests that’s an oversimplification, but the war was one of the causes.


Bangladesh has suffered from a series of famines, and I think of how Amartya Senn, the Bengali winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, argues that famine does not occur if there is a free press. No doubt there was not a free press in the declining days of British India in 1943. I always think of Senn’s argument as the most important argument for a free press.





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