It was more than three decades ago that Bengal Foundation embarked upon its journey to project a culturally rich Bangladesh. Born out of the Chairman and Founder Abul Khair’s personal regard for the arts, instilled in him by his uncle and National Professor Abdur Razzaq, the Foundation presently runs several programmes on music, art, literature, crafts, cinema, and architecture.
The Foundation was set up on the belief that exposure to the arts can lend a certain enlightenment which not only inspires compassion, but elevates the quality of life and contributes to the betterment of society as a whole.
At the heart of the Foundation is the desire to create awareness in, and encourage the practice of the arts, in all its varied forms. Bengal Foundation operates purely for the benefit of the public and has pursued the policy of making all its endeavours free and open to all since its inception. It works to conserve tradition; allow diversity, evolution and growth from within; and disseminate processes, techniques, information and knowledge about the arts in order to empower, and instil confidence. Bengal Foundation’s main objectives are to conserve tradition, support cultural diversity, evolution and growth, as well as to uphold a positive image of Bangladesh by highlighting its cultural wealth.
Bengal Foundation is independently and solely funded by the efforts and means of the Board of Trustees and does not accept donations locally or abroad.
Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq
A legendary scholar, a nurturing mentor and a distinctive and inspiring presence in the intellectual and cultural landscape of the country for many decades, Abdur Razzaq’s vision is at the very heart of the Bengal Foundation. Referred to as Gyantapas, or one who seeks knowledge, Abdur Razzaq was the first person to earn the title National Professor of Bangladesh.
He was an extraordinary human being who touched everyone with his graciousness and humanity, humility and integrity, and his simple lifestyle and infectious laughter. Moreover, in his opposition to military regimes of the period, he became notable for his firm support of the movements and forces that demanded democracy, autonomy and social justice for the people.
However, beyond everything else, Abdur Razzaq was known for his fervent dedication to the cause of education in the country, and his abiding faith in critical thinking, moral clarity and academic excellence. Remembered as a mentor and a teacher of teachers he has been a monumental influence on some of the best minds of the country and the cornerstone of the Bengal Foundation.
Message from the Chair
There can be no better means of ensuring a bonding of people, of bringing them together, than through cultural exchange. The aesthetic sensibility and creative urge that come together in the arts are surely the ingredients that foster ties between societies, and greatly assist in the promotion of all those attributes that strengthen humanity.
It has been two decades since Bengal Foundation emerged in the country’s cultural scene. All this time we have striven, through continuous nurture and practice, to conserve various strands of our culture and by extension, expand its scope. Ours is a humble endeavour that has consistently sought to create a positive difference.
We sincerely acknowledge the debt of gratitude owed to artists, singers, musicians, craftspersons, stage artists, performers, organisers, activists, writers, critics and all those who have believed in and stood by us all these years. Our journey would have been untenable without the dedication, hard work and ingenuity of each member of the Bengal Foundation team.
We fondly remember those members who are no longer with us but continue to enrich the institution with their legacy.
Chair, Bengal Foundation
Board of trustees
Abul Khair (Litu) graduated from Dhaka University in 1972. An entrepreneur and industrialist, he started business in the early seventies. He is the Chairman of Bengal Group. Khair was the president of Abahoni Sporting Club from 1982-87. He and his partners set up the first private bank in Bangladesh, the AB Bank, in 1981. An art aficionado, he has the country’s largest private collection of paintings. He is President of the National Craft Foundation. He is a publisher of books and eight periodicals and Editor of two.
Momtaz Khalek (1930 – 2021)
A social activist, gourmet cook, and a self-taught artist, Mrs. Momtaz Khaleque, spent most her life in charitable work. She was involved with many sociocultural organisations. She was a trustee of Bengal Foundation and Gyantapas Abdur Razzaque Foundation, and the founder of Abdul Khaleque Memorial School.
National Professor Dr. Anisuzzaman (1937 – 2020)
An eminent scholar, academician and a leading authority in Bengali literature; Anisuzzaman received the Ekushey Padak in 1985 for his contribution to education. In 2014, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India and in 2015 the Government of Bangladesh conferred on him the Shadinata Purashkar for literature. He had a long and distinguished career as a professor in the Bengali department at the University of Dhaka. He was a visiting fellow and a visiting professor at a number of universities abroad. Anisuzzaman was chair of the board of trustees of Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq Foundation, the chairman of the editorial board of the Bengali literary magazine Kali O Kalam and the arts periodical Jamini.
Ruby Ghuznavi is credited for reviving the use of natural dyes in Bangladesh. As Chairperson of the World Crafts Council-Asia Pacific Region’s Natural Dye Programme, she works closely with experts of the Region to promote the use of natural dyes. A rights activist, she is a member of Naripokkho, a Trustee of Transparency International Bangladesh and the founder and Executive Chairman of Aranya Crafts Ltd.
Dr. Shafquat Hussain Khundkar
Dr. Khundkar is one of 15 plastic surgeons in Bangladesh. In his long and distinguished career, he founded the country’s first plastic surgery residency program at the Dhaka Medical College. He is the current president of the Society of Surgeons of Bangladesh. Since 1990, Dr. Khundkar has worked with Interplast–a global humanitarian effort to uplift the lives of impoverished children.
Abul Hasnat (1945 – 2020)
Noted poet, journalist, writer and arts commentator Abul Hasnat had a long and distinguished career in the newspaper industry. He was actively associated with the Afro-Asian Writers Forum, Gono Shahitto Patrika, International Theatre Institute, Chhayanaut and several other leading cultural organisations. Hasnat received the Agrani Bank Shishu Sahitya Puroshkar in 1982, the Reporter’s Unity Freedom Fighter Award in 1996, and the Bangla Academy Fellowship in 2013. His years in the Bengali daily, Sangbad, was followed by editorship of the literary monthly Kali O Kalam and the arts quarterly Shilpa O Shilpi. He was the Executive Director of Bengal Publications. His book Prottoyi Smriti O Onnanno received the Munier Chowdhury Puroshkar at the Ekushey Boimela in 2020.
Shah Sayed Kamal
A valiant freedom fighter, Kamal joined the Liberation War at the age of seventeen. He graduated from Dhaka University and started business in the mid-seventies. An art patron and collector, Kamal is associated with several sociocultural organisations. Currently he is the President of France-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Subir Choudhury (1950-2014)
A foremost arts organiser, Subir Choudhury graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts and joined the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. As the Director there, he steered the National Art Exhibition, Young Artists Exhibition, and most importantly, Asian Art Biennale, the last being Bangladesh’s very first attempt to organise a large-scale international art event. These efforts would have a lasting impact on the country’s art scene. Choudhury became Director at Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts, where he joined in 2004. Through relentlessly organising exhibitions, workshops, talks, creating opportunity for young artists, and building regional networks, he continued to play a key role in the evolution and regeneration of the art movement.
Luva Nahid Choudhury
Luva Nahid Choudhury graduated as an Architect from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) in 1986. After a 10-year stint in government service, she joined Bengal Foundation in 1998. She is currently the Director General of Bengal Foundation.
Choudhury has served in the governing board of BRAC from 2010 to 2019. She is a trustee of the Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq Foundation, and the Bengal Society for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements. She serves in the governing board of Friendship NGO, and is Advisor to Bistaar, Chattogram.
Since 1998, Choudhury heads Abashan Upodeshta, an architecture practice in Dhaka. She is a member of the editorial boards of arts and literary magazines Kali O Kalam, Six Seasons Review, and Jamini, and heads Bengal Publications and the flagship bookstore Bengal Boi. She is a Vice-President, South Asia, of the World Crafts Council-Asia Pacific Region. She received the Anannya Shirsha Dash (Top Ten) Award in 2015 and the Brand Forum Award, among others, for her contribution in the arts.
Nawshin Khair is a fashion designer and owns ‘Paera’. A graduate of Richmond University, London, she is the Managing Director, of the fair trade label Aranya, and the social business, bCraft Initiatives. Furthermore, Nawshin Khair is the Country Coordinator, and advisor of the Global Committee of Fashion Revolution.