Kanak Chanpa Chakma

 Kanak Chanpa Chakma

Kanak Chanpa Chakma (born 6 May 1963) is a Bangladeshi Chakma artist who has won national and international awards, and is renowned for her paintings depicting the lives of Bangladeshi ethnic minorities, focusing on the lives of women, and their daily lives combining semi realistic and abstract in the same frame.

Kanak was born in 1963 in the Rangamati Hill Tracts, in a small town named Tabal Chari, a remote hill area. She is a member of the Chakma people. Her father is a retired businessman and her mother is a textile designer and weaver who has twice won national awards for her work. She attended the School of Art, University of Dhaka in Bangladesh and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1986. Later she studied art at Pennsylvania State University in the United States from 1993 to 1994, where she received the Mid-American Arts Alliance Fellowship. She returned to Bangladesh after successful completion of her course. Her husband, Khalid Mahmood Mithu, is an artist and filmmaker, and her two children are also artists and musicians. She cites her family as the “first viewers” of any of her finished paintings.

In her solo exhibition, Life is Here, held in 2014 at Bengal Art Lounge in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Kanak paid tribute to her own community, the Chakmas, with 80 paintings.

Kanak’s works often focus upon women, with men appearing only to stress the subjectivity and centrality of women. She explains her focus upon women in her paintings thus: “In plains and in hills, women are similarly cornered, even though they often contribute more than men to their families. I therefore prefer to centralise women in my works.

She cites the “vivid colours of indigenous attire, the hills, forests, ‘jhum’ cultivation, pristine blue waterfalls, dance and music; in other words, anything that defines life in the hilly areas of Bangladesh” as major inspirations for her work, and says she has also been inspired by the Impressionist movement.

Her paintings have been featured in over 100 exhibitions both at home and abroad, including Australia, India, the United States, Germany, France and England. Her source of inspiration is the daily life of the Chakma people and the natural beauty of her birthplace, Rangamati, and focuses on the representation of ethnic minorities in her work.