The 106th anniversary of birthday of poet Sufia Kamal, a pioneer of Bengali women’s emancipation, will be observed today by several organisations like Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Bangladesh Mahila Samity and others founded by the poet.
An influential cultural figure in the Bengali nationalist movements of the 1950s and 60s and a civil society leader in the country after independence, Sufia Kamal was born on June 20, 1911 in a conservative Muslim family in Barisal.
Sufia’s first poem, Bashanti (Of Spring), was published in Saogat magazine in 1926.
Her first collection of poems, Sanjher Maya (Evening Enchantment), was published in 1938.
Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote the foreword and praised the young poet as ‘a new star on the horizon of Bangla poetry.’ Rabindranath Tagore, after reading the book, wrote to Sufia, ‘You have a high place in Bangla literature, as constant and fixed as the Pole Star,’ according to Banglapedia.
Poems of her other collections such as Mrittikar Ghran, Ekatturer Diary, Benibinyas Samay To Ar Nei, and Ekale Amader Kal demonstrate her skill as a romantic and socially conscious poet.
Her poems were translated into Chinese, English, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Vietnamese, Hindi and Urdu.
In 1931, she became the first Bengali Muslim woman to be a member of the Indian Women’s Federation.
Sufia Kamal along with her family returned to Dhaka after the partition in 1947.
Since then, a new phase of social, political and literary activities began for Sufia Kamal. In 1949, she became the founding co-editor of a weekly magazine, Sultana, named after the principal character of Roquiah Sakhawat Hossain’s Sultana’s Dream.
In 1952, Sufia Kamal took part in the language movement. She was also actively involved in upholding Bengali language and culture throughout the 1960s.
She was also involved in the movement against the embargo on Tagore imposed by the government in late 1960s. She took part in the 1969 mass uprising and the non- cooperation movement in March 1971.
Sufia Kamal became the founding president of Mahila Sangram Parishad [Bangladesh Mahila Parishad] in 1969.
In her writing and the social causes that she upheld, she propounded humane and democratic values and continued to be the voice of conscience, protest and social justice.
She authored more than a dozen collections of poetry, and wrote an autobiographical volume in which she recorded her encounters with Roquiah Sakhawat Hossain, titled Ekale Amader Kal.
She also published several collections of short stories.
Sufia Kamal received many prestigious awards, including the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (1961), a national award given by the Pakistan government, which she returned in 1969 in protest at the government’s oppressive treatment of Bengalis.
She also received Bangla Academy Award in 1962, Ekushey Padak in 1976 and Independence Day Award in 1997.
Sufia Kamal died in Dhaka on November 20, 1999.
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