Amitabh Mitra

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Amitabh Mitra
অমিতাভ মিত্র
Dr. Amitabh Mitra Physician Poet Artist South Africa.JPG
Amitabh Mitra
Nationality South Africa
Occupation Physician

Amitabh Mitra (Bengali: অমিতাভ মিত্র) is an Indian-born South African physician, poet and artist, whose paintings depict dramatised stick figures.

Education and career[edit]

Mitra studied medicine and did postgraduate studies in orthopaedic surgery at the Gajara Raja Medical College, Jiwaji University, Gwalior, India. He further specialised in aerospace medicine and family medicine at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.[1]

A practitioner of orthopaedic surgery and trauma surgery, currently working at the Accident and Emergency unit of Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, Mdantsane, South Africa, he has published five volumes of poetry and exhibited his poetry art. Mitra figures in the international roster of physician poets, a massive roster of ancient and contemporary poets / writers maintained by Daniel Bryant and assisted by Suzanne Poirer, Professor of Literature and Medical Education, University of Illinois, USA[2] He represented South Africa at the World Literature Festival in Oslo 2008.[3]

Artistic influences[edit]

Tembeka, A watercolor on a handmade paper by Amitabh Mitra

A major section of Mitra's work on art and poetry is devoted to Gwalior, where he grew up. His close friendship with the Maratha royal families resulted in his drawing a series of watercolour involving poetry which he exhibited in South Africa and India. A Slow Train to Gwalior is a coffee-table book of his art and poetry; a compact disc of his recitation with a backdrop of African traditional music was released by the Premier of Eastern Cape, Nosimo Balindlela, and a short documentary film on his Gwalior poetry was shown at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2009. In 2007 he was invited by the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, where he presented his work to a poetry-loving audience.[4][5]

As surgeon[edit]

Mitra's work in trauma surgery took him to Bhutan, where he worked at high-altitude hospitals of Chukha, Tsimalakha, Chimakothi and Thimphu under severe conditions. During these times he wrote poems about Bhutan, some of which were translated into French.[6] He wrote about his adventures in his search for the utopian Shangri La.[7][8] Khushwant Singh, the former editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India visited him to his hospital in Bhutan and wrote about him in his weekly columns, "With Malice Towards One and All" in the Times of India during the 1980s. Mitra later went to Arunachal Pradesh, where he joined as an orthopaedic surgeon at Along. He joined as an orthopaedic surgeon at Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in 1993. He lived in Bulawayo's Mzilikazi township and narrated his experiences during the time of political turmoil.[9]

As artist[edit]

His present art is about the black township of Mdantsane,[10] where he works at the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital.[11][12]

Mdantsane Breathing is his book on the art and poetry of Mdantsane.

As poet[edit]

He translated the Bengali poetry of the late Prabhatkiran Bose, well known children's author in Bengal during the 1950s.[13][14]

Mitra's art and poetry on the township of Mdantsane, South Africa, was exhibited at the 2011 International Symposium for Poetry and Medicine and Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine Awards on Saturday, 7 May 2011, entitled Poems from Cecilia Makiwane Hospital.[15][16]

Splinters of a Mirage Dawn, An Anthology of Migrant Poetry of South Africa (co-edited with Naomi Nkealah) was short listed for the National Humanities and Social Sciences Award, South Africa, 2016.[17]



  • Bithika – 1978
  • Ritual Silences – 1980
  • A Slow Train to Gwalior – 2009
  • Leaping the Lilac Sun – 2009
  • Mdantsane Breathing – 2010
  • Tonight, An Anthology of World Love Poetry – 2008 (co-edited with Victoria Valentine)
  • Poems for Haiti, A South African Anthology (Foreword by Professor Peter Horn) – 2010
  • Unbreaking the Rainbow, Voices of Protest from New South Africa (Foreword by Ela Gandhi) – 2012
  • Splinters of a Mirage Dawn, Anthology of Migrant Poetry from South Africa (co-edited with Naomi Nkealah) (Art by Arpana Caur) – 2013
  • Our Little Black Book of Ills, Poetry Anthology, Four Poets Share Expressions of Grief(with Victoria ValentineLynda G Bullerwelljacob erin-cilberto) - 2015
  • Stranger than a Sun, Poems and Drawings of Gwalior - 2015
  • Trainstorm, An Anthology of Alternative Train Poetry - 2016


  • A Hudson View, A Quarterly Print Poetry Journal[18]
  • Inyathi, A Journal on South African Arts[19]

Compact disc of poetry and music[edit]

  • A Slow Train to Gwalior – 2007

Appearances in the following poetry Anthologies[edit]

  • Travelogue : The Grand Indian Express (2018) ed. by Dr. Ananad Kumar and published by Authorspress, New Delhi


External links[edit]