Abul Khair Litu – Patron of Bangladeshi Culture

Well known for his support of Bangladeshi culture, music, art, theater and literature, Abul Khair Litu is chairperson and founder of the Bengal Foundation, established in 1986. The foundation encompasses a range of visual and performing arts, with the focus on music and painting. Monthly concerts, festivals and workshops encourage the citizens of Bangladesh to embrace the arts, and scholarships and grants are awarded to promising students for advanced training in art and music. The foundation has also published more than a hundred albums of Bengali music and produces an English-language quarterly arts publication called Jamini, as well as the literary magazine Kali O Kalam. Other publications founded by Abul Khair include a cultural events bulletin Bengal Barota and a Bengali arts quarterly called Shilpa O Shilpi.

Born in Dhaka on 7 October 1950, this prominent Bangladeshi entrepreneur and industrialist studied at Dhaka University, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in commerce. He later assisted in establishing the first private banking institution in Bangladesh, AB Bank, in association with Dubai Bank, and is currently the chairman of the Dhaka-based business house Bengal Group. Abul Khair Litu’s love for the fascinating art and culture of Bangladesh was encouraged by his uncle, Professor Abdur Razzaque, who introduced him to some of Bangladesh’s prominent artists at the time, including Zainul Abedin – widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of Bangladeshi art.

His interaction with these talented artists prompted Abul Khair Litu to start his own art collection, and later to set up the Bengal Foundation to promote Bangladeshi art on a wider scale. In addition to running seminars, workshops and special events related to visual and performing arts, since 1999 the Bengal Foundation has organized a number of international art camps in which up to 300 artists from around the world have participated in different locations, including Dhaka, Florence, Kolkata and Maldives.

To honor established artists and encourage emerging Bangladeshi artists, Abul Khair has instituted a number of awards, and since 1998, the Bengal Foundation Award has been made to an artist for exceptional work in the annual National Art Exhibition organized by the Shilpakala Academy. In association with the National Crafts Council, the Master Craftsperson’s award is the highest honor for commendable work in the field of Bangladeshi crafts.

The Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts was established by Abul Khair in one of his private residences and is currently the largest private gallery in Bangladesh, having showcased the work of more than 250 artists and producing up to 35 documentary films. In 2011 it was reported that Abul Khair had entered into a partnership with Italian publishing house Skira to produce a series of forty volumes focused on Bangladeshi art, with the first four volumes to feature the works of photographer Shahidul Alam, and painters, Safiuddin Ahmed, Zainul Abedin and Kazi Ghivasuddin.