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Novera Ahmed

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[Shahabuddin Ahmed] Novera Ahmed, a highly talented, audacious and somewhat enigmatic pioneer sculptor of Bangladesh who is credited with the original design of the Shaheed Minar, a historical memorial monument for the martyrs of the language movement of 1952.

In 1957. the work of Shaheed Minar evolved - Novera Ahmed collaborated with Hamidur Rahman in the field of designing the fountain and embellishing the landscape with sculptures and design of plants and foliage. Both Hamidur Rahman and Novera Ahmed had spent time in Florence and Novera had studied sculpture under Dr. Vogel in London and the famous Italian Venturino Venturi in Florence. She was especially fascinated by the great tradition of fountain sculptures abounding in Italian cities, such as the Fontana Trevi in Rome and Piazza Vecchio in Florence and garden designing as in Bobli Gardens and Villa Borghese. Mughals had practiced fountain art in India, but only in well-laid gardens, as pan of the designs of these gardens. In Europe however, fountains had been a part of the aesthetic layout of cities. When Novera came back to Dhaka, she became the first practitioner of fountain art in the then East Pakistan. Obviously, she wanted to include a fountain as part of the structural design of the Shaheed Minar.

As an avant garde artist she wanted to add a new dimension to the landscape of Shaheed Minar using the flow of water as a complement to the graceful moving shadows on the marble platform. Her sculptures were also to enhance the passion and pain of the martyrs through figurative works. She was the first sculptor who pointed out the importance of placing sculpture in the open air. Unfortunately, these aspects remain unfulfilled to a great extent even now.

In late 1958, following the imposition of martial law by General Ayub Khan, the Shaheed Minar plan was shelved and those connected with it had to undergo various tortures and harassment. In 1972, designs were called for to rebuild the Shaheed Minar (which was destroyed on the night of March 27, 1971 by the Pakistan Army). A competition was held and many people submitted their designs from amongst which Hamidur Rahman's layout was selected once again. But the original vision was never fully executed... Hamidur Rahman or Novera cannot implement their designs now. Hamidur Rahman passed away in 1989. And Novera Ahmed had simply left, with no forwarding address. No one knows where she lives now, or what she is doing. A pity such a gifted artist has vanished from amongst us.

Had Hamidur Rahman been alive today, he would have been happy to see that his humble offering has provided the central meeting point where people's songs and dramas are acted and where intellectuals and politicians go to place wreaths of homage to the departed souls of the martyrs.

Bangladesh Table of Contents

Excerpts from It Is My Mother's Face by Sayeed Ahmed
Novera by Hasnat Abdul Hai
Courtesy of Adhunika

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