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Controversy erupts over nude Sheikh painting by M F Husain

03, Mar 2010 By Pagal Patrakar

Doha, Qatar. Within a few days of him accepting the Qatari citizenship, noted painter Maqbool Fida Husain is facing a fresh controversy. One of his lesser known paintings, The Nude Dude, has been deemed to depict an Arab Sheikh in a nude posture. Although Husain denies it, various Arab groups have accused the former Indian painter of deliberately insulting the Arabic culture in general and Sheikhdom in particular.

“This is unacceptable. We condemn it in the strongest possible manner. Nudity is not a part of our culture and no one has ever seen a nude sheikh. In fact, you would even struggle to find images of a nude sheikh if you Google for it. We have no idea what made Mr. Husain paint such stuff.” a group calling itself Awesome Arabs Association (AAA) protested.

The concerned painting is a derivative form of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing The Vitruvian Man, except that the man in the painting is wearing a Keffiyeh (Arabic scarf or headdress) on his head.

M F Husain, who is not new to controversies surrounding nudity and walks bare foot, has thoroughly denied that The Nude Dude was any attempt to hurt the Arabs or the Sheikhs.

“There is no nudity in the picture. One has to see things in perspective. I have tried to send out a message that the Western world and the Arab world could co-exist, and in fact, they look beautiful together. People should concentrate on the message, and not fret over the medium.” M F Husain defended his painting.

He further informed that the name The Nude Dude was not of his choosing, and the name was invented by media after the painting was put on exhibition by some unknown groups.

But the explanation by Husain has failed to pacify the likes of AAA activists, who have threatened to file hundreds of legal cases against him as was done by some Indian groups. In fact, more trouble could be coming the way of Husain as a few people have interpreted the painting to be critical of an Arab Sheikh, even if the nudity part was ignored.

The Vitruvian Man is also known as Proportions of Man, and now we see a Sheikh over there. I think Mr. Husain is sending out a signal to the Arab Sheikhs to have some sense of proportion in their lavish ways.” said a pro-democracy activist on conditions of anonymity.

No official response has yet been received from the office of Emir of Qatar over this controversy, but legal experts inform us that if His Highness took offence to the latest paintings, M F Husain could be jailed for up to fifteen years in some Qatari jail without having the right to appeal.

“One has all the freedom here, but Emirs and Sheikhs must not be insulted. But I’m hopeful for Husain. Qatar is the most progressive Arab state.” said E G Baby, an Indian expatriate working in Doha.

Painting by M F Husain
The now controversial painting by M F Husain was painted by him at least seven years back, but has come to haunt him after he accepted the Qatari citizenship