Sufia Kamal 100th Anniversary Celebrated

On 20 June 1911, the famous Sufia Kamal was born, and yesterday (20 June 2011) Bangladesh celebrated the 100th anniversary of one the most influential writers and poets of the country. Not only was she influential in the literary realm but she was also a dedicated feminist, fighting for the rights of women in Bangladesh. Kamal was the very first woman to be buried with full state honors after she passed away in 1999. The contributions she made to the country are still celebrated, and she was honored and remembered yesterday as a figure in Bangladesh who will never be forgotten.

It is said that Sufia Kamal founded the women’s rights organization in Bangladesh, and to pay tribute to a poet who captured historical moments in the country in her work, messages where read by both Zillur Rahman (President of Bangladesh) and Sheikh Hasina (Prime Minister). Wreaths were placed on Sufia Kamal’s grave in the Azimpur Graveyard by cultural activists and literati, with a variety of events being planned for the remainder of the day to celebrate Kamal’s life.

Born in Shaestabad, Sufia Kamal was born into a distinguished family, but as women were not allowed to be educated, no money was set aside for her to study. She taught herself the languages of English, Persian, Bangla, Urdu, Kurdish, Arabic and even Hindi. She met Begum Rokeya for the first time in 1918 on a trip to Kolkata with her mother. At the tender age of eleven, she was married off to her cousin, a student of law, and remarried Kamaluddin Ahmed in 1937 after her first husband passed away five years earlier. After a short story entitled Shainik Bodhu, written by Kamal, was published in the year 1923, she began to rub shoulders with prominent people such as Mahatma Gandi, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Begum Rokeya. After meeting Rokeya, who is viewed as Bengal’s first feminist, for a second time, she left an impression on Kamal, which would influence and inspire her in becoming an activist for women’s rights.

In 1926, a poem called Bashanti was published, and she joined the Indian Women Federation in 1931. Her work includes Diary of ’71 (Ekattarer Diary), In This Time Our Time (Ekale Amader Kal), The Fragrance of Earth (Mrttikar Ghran) and No More Time for Braiding Your Hair (Benibinyas Samay To Ar Nei). She also won approximately fifty awards such as the Begum Rokeya Medal, Bangla Academy Award for Literature, Czechoslovakia Medal, Deshbandhu CR Das Gold Medal, Ekushey Medal, Lenin Centenary Jubilee Medal and the Independence Day Award. Sufia Kamal’s work is still as inspirational as it was when she wrote it, and the literary world of Bangladesh views her as one of the most influential poets in the country.