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Dhaka Tribune

Digital platforms guide Rangpur artist through the pandemic

Morsalina’s mother often said she learned to draw first and then to read

Update : 18 Jun 2021, 08:43 PM

By the virtue of digitization through the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) program, Morsalina Lovely, a freelance artist and art teacher, has changed fortune from painting and teaching to draw portraits online.

Morsalina, also a successful housewife, earns Tk35,000 on an average monthly from painting portraits, teaching children and teachers to draw portraits and drawing portraits on T-shirts online or selling portraits.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic could not hinder her activities.

Rather, her income continues growing with increasing dependency on technologies throughout the globe during the pandemic that has lessened prospects for employment of jobseekers.

Morsalina was born and brought up in Alamnagar area of Rangpur city.

She passed her SSC and HSC examinations in 1992 and in 1994 respectively.

Later, she got admitted to the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Chittagong and completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in graphics and printmaking in 2002.

She was married to businessman Mahbubul Ahsan of Munshipara area in Rangpur city in 2004 and started living at her husband’s house.

Her only daughter Zaara Jenita Ahsan is an eighth-grader at Rangpur Police Lines School and College.

While narrating her story of changing fortune by virtue of technologies and devices to BSS, Morsalina said her father used to bring chalk filled boxes during her childhood.

“The black floor at home was my canvas. After getting new textbooks every year, I used to draw by looking at different pictures of books before reading the stories and poems,” she said.

“My mother Marjina Begum often said that I learned to draw first and then to read,” she said, and added that she nurtured a passion to draw pictures of anything beautiful since childhood.

Morsalina said her father Agriculturist Md Mossarraf Hossain went to London in 1998 while working in the Department of Agricultural Extension and brought colour and brush for painting for her.

“I was so happy and inspired after getting the foreign brand paint and brush from my father. I started painting portraits of people and nature on my way to build a career as an artist,” she said.

Morsalina has drawn portraits of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Biswa Kobi Rabindranath Tagore, National Poet Kazi Nazrul, Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, SM Sultan and many other personalities.

She pays homage to her mother-in-law, relatives, friends, well-wishers or other artists by drawing portraits.

“The joy that comes from painting a smiling face amidst all hardships around is unmatched by anything else. If a person has a smile on their face, I like to draw the same,” she said.

However, she said that she did not know that technologies would bring fortune for her one day.

She has been participating in the annual painting exhibition of the Department of Fine Arts of Chittagong University since 1997.

In 2001, her portraits and paintings were exhibited at the Second Contemporary New Art Exhibition for Youths in Japan.

However, she was away from her own work of drawing portraits for various jobs including work and family for 15 years.

She started painting portraits again in 2015.

She has been teaching children drawing since 1998.

She worked as a designer in a ceramic company as an art teacher in Dhaka, Chittagong and Rangpur.

In 2018, she started participating in various exhibitions at home and abroad mostly taking advantage of the information and communication technologies, internet, smartphone, monitor and other digital devices.

Later in 2018, she participated in the International Watercolor Workshop and Joint Painting Exhibition in Kolkata.

In the same year, her paintings and portraits were exhibited in the third International Art Festival ‘Tune of Art Focus Bangladesh’ and ‘Bandhan Fifth International Joint Painting Exhibition’ in Srilanka.

In 2019, works of Morsalina were exhibited in the Fabriano International Joint Watercolor Exhibition in Italy, the International Watercolor Society in Switzerland and the Annual International Exhibition in Kolkata.

Morsalina received the ‘Best 10 Painters Award 2019’ in the International Joint Painting Exhibition in Nepal.

Last year, she took part in the International Joint Painting Exhibition arranged at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Morsalina received the Mother Teresa Shining Personality Award- 2021 this year in recognition of her outstanding contribution to fine arts.

She writes her diary on Facebook with various portraits and other pictures drawn daily.

She has recently been appointed as a teacher of Arts and Crafts at Image Advanced Teachers Training College in Rangpur where teachers and others having minimum bachelor’s degree are studying mainly online during the pandemic.

She is running her ‘Morsalina Charukola Academy’ and teaching children to draw online amid the pandemic through a Dhaka-based online group ‘Her-e Trade’ of women entrepreneurs working with local products.

“Most of the students of Morsalina’s online class are from Dhaka,” she said, adding that there is a big difference between teaching children to draw and the same to adults.

She is also working online on the projects on child protection programs of the international organizations ‘Save the Children’ and ‘International Rescue Committee’.

She said the whiteness of white flowers in watercolors, family portraits and coffee paintings, portraits of husbands, series of laughing faces or smiling faces, sketches of dear friends … This is how her online work goes on.

Morsalina said she did not face any obstacle while continuing her professional works and drawing portraits or conducting online classes as a woman.

In this case, she mentioned spontaneous family support. Before the wedding, her parents and other siblings were by her side.

After the marriage, her father-in-law and mother-in-law and especially her husband Mahbubul Ahsan, said there is no problem in running a family by painting

“Everyone shares the housework when needed,” Morsalina said.

Her husband has set up a separate studio to work in the house so that there is no problem.

“My husband is also the one who solves the problem of taking online classes,” she said.

Although many people lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, Morsalina said her work did not stop, rather expanded.

She is currently getting increasing numbers of orders online through messenger, Facebook and WhatsApp and other digitised devices from home and abroad.

Using digital devices and the internet, Morsalina draws portraits online on t-shirts of many people on their own T-shirts.

“Portraits are being sold at rates between Tk4,000-20,000 depending mainly on the dimension,” she said.

However, most of the drawing materials have to be bought from Dhaka city. So, she has to worry about whether the material will run out during the pandemic period.

Morsalina dreams of exhibiting a large single exhibition of her works and her own art academy will grow to match the stalks and her dream.

Her father died in 2020. He was very happy with Morsalina’s works. He has seen that his daughter is getting various recognitions through pictures from home and abroad.

“I thank Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy for launching the digitisation programme through the a2i creating an opportunity for many others like me to change fortune using digitised technologies and devices,” Morsalina said.

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