“laa.ī hayāt aae qazā le chalī chale
apnī ḳhushī na aae na apnī ḳhushī chale”
(I came as life had brought me, as death takes me, I go.
I came not of my own accord / nor of my own I go.)
–SHEIKH IBRAHIM ZAUQ
This was one of the customary couplets that Yasinn Sahab loved to recite whenever I visited him. It seems that he was always ready for his heavenly abode and wanted to cheer his remaining life with enthusiasm.
Mohammad Yasin at the age of 92, passed away peacefully on 19th August, 2020 at his residence in Shaheen Bagh, New Delhi. He was born on January 4th, 1928 at Mugalgidda village, Hyderabad (Andra Pradesh). Under the aegis of Aseem Asha Foundation, I understood him while making an hour-long documentary film on his work & life in association with Dagar Family i.e. Pictorial Calligrapher Qamar Dagar, Dhrupad Singer Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar etc, later I consociate with him. He was a versatile person, calligrapher, print maker and pioneered the technique of Lithography in Department of Graphics (Print Making), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. It was great endeavor in meeting with veteran artist Mohammad Yasin for the first time. This was the first full length documentary on Art & Artist by me which I enjoyed making a lot. I learned many new things on each and every step that enriched me to understand the variety, depth and details of his work. I took Yasin ji’s interviews in many schedules. Every time I found a new and very interesting story from him. He is a great storyteller himself. His stories are detailed and very informative, a learning experience for everyone. I learned a sense of perfection, purity, innocence, humanity, selflessness & foremost devotion for the arts from him. His film was appreciated and screened at various places such as The Attic, Delhi, India International Center (IIC), Delhi, Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur etc.
He painted till his last breath. The integration of ‘OM’ and ‘Allah’ in his paintings were mesmerizing. Throughout his life, he conveyed the message of Peace & Harmony that are in lined with the principles of Aseem Asha Foundation as well. He was a poetry enthusiast too, and used to recite Urdu couplets while sharing anecdotes with an amused face. In 2017 Aseem Asha Foundation was honored to confer a life time achievement award on him at IC’s hotel, Okhla.
He was also selected for several important scholarship and fellowship programs.
During his scholarship at east-west center, Honolulu, Hawaii, he studied at the department of
Art, University of Hawaii and at Pratts graphic Art center, New York.
So Far Mohammad Yasin has had 37 solo exhibitions including one in Paris in 1991, among others, one titled, “A decade in Retrospect 1974-84” was held at the Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi in 1984, another one titled, “Retrospective of Paintings, Drawings and Graphics” spanning 1958-2005 was held at Castelo Branco, Portugal in 2005.
The remarkable work of Yasinn Sahab has inspired many students of Aseem Asha Foundation to take apprenticeship in arts and now they are doing extraordinary work in this field. To commemorate his work, we renamed our project as “M Yasin Community Visual Art Project”. He is not with us physically but spiritually his soul will always remain with us and pour the blessing on every work that we do.
He would invite me in each birthday since 2013 and I was the only outside person in his birthday celebrations. He was loquacious with me when I used to visit with my students, he used to give them blessing as well and hold the conversations very affectionately. He always advised us to make the Art as a part of the life in order to become good person. Art connoisseur Laurence Bastit who deceased recently played a very significant role in promoting him as a painter at national and international level.
I still remember an incident when he got the news from All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), New Delhi about his life time achievement awards and honorarium of rupees 1 lac with a commemoratory lunch. He called and invited me first, I hurried to his home, we were in euphoria, and selected the attire for his awarding ceremony such as Sherwaani, Topi, Jootis etc. His face was as bright as an innocent child. Unfortunately, due to lockdown it could not be conferred upon him in his presence.
I feel, Persona like Mohammad Yasin doesn’t require any award or honor, in fact he awarded his life to us, to the young generation. He himself faced lot of physical, financial and mental challenges throughout his life. He was also affected with Tuberculosis and Paresis but never compromised with the quality of his work, he was never bothered about any acknowledgement though his work should get a great recognition from the government. Later in his life he taught at Delhi College of Art and Faculty of Fine Art, Jamia Millia Islamia. His works are in permanent collections of galleries, Art Institutions, museums and in private & individual collection in India & abroad.
I cannot forget the cherished moment with him specifically attending his birthdays, art exhibitions, award ceremonies and personal meetings. His legacy will be a great source of inspiration for the contemporary world and to the generations coming ahead.
Grieving upon his sad demise, I pay my humble homage to Yasin Sahab. May his soul rests in peace and bestowed with highest place in Jannah. – Ameen
By Aseem Asha Usman,
Aseem Asha Foundation, New Delhi