Amitabh Mitra

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

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.

Dr. Mitra received on 15 December 2018, the Provincial Eastern Cape Minister of Art and Culture's Special Award in the category of Fine Arts for his continued dedication to South African Arts

Dr. Mitra gifted the charcoal portrait done by him of Dr. Neil Aggett on 21 March 2019 at the 13th Annual Neil Aggett Memorial Lecture at Kingswood College, Grahamstown.The lecture takes place each year to celebrate the life of Neil Aggett and to honour his legacy. Dr Amitabh Mitra, was a special guest at this year’s lecture as he presented the school with a charcoal drawing that he drew of Neil Aggett. This drawing is one very few visual representations of Aggett and will be displayed in the Kingswood College Museum.[13]

The University of Cape Town honors and commemorates woman heroes of anti-apartheid struggle which includes Cecilia Makiwane. A charcoal portrait of Cecilia Makiwane done by Dr.Amitabh Mitra was exhibited at the Molly Blackburn Hall, University of Cape Town campus on 19 September 2019.[14][15]

As poet[edit]

He translated the Bengali poetry of the late Prabhatkiran Bose, well known children's author in Bengal during the 1950s.[16][17]

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.[18][19]

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.[20]



  • 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 Valentine Lynda G Bullerwell jacob erin-cilberto) - 2015
  • Stranger than a Sun, Poems and Drawings of Gwalior - 2015
  • Trainstorm, An Anthology of Alternative Train Poetry - 2016
  • Anarchy and the Sea, (Poems and Seascapes of Amitabh Mitra) - 2021


  • A Hudson View, A Quarterly Print Poetry Journal[21]
  • Inyathi, A Journal on South African Arts[22]

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


  1. ^ "A Chat by Ramendra Kumar".
  2. ^ "Bryant Collection – Physician Roster". Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  3. ^ "Participation World Literature Festival, Oslo".
  4. ^ "The Hindu". Chennai, India. 12 January 2008.
  5. ^ "At Sahitya Akademi, Delhi".
  6. ^ "Bhutan,Thimphu". Archived from the original on 8 June 2011.
  7. ^ "The Search for Shangri-La". Archived from the original on 14 January 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  8. ^ "In Bhutan".
  9. ^ "Remembering Zimbabwe of Old". Archived from the original on 14 January 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  10. ^ "South African Artists".
  11. ^ "Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, Symbol of Hope and Courage in South Africa". Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  12. ^ Hennop, Jan (11 March 2010). "Journey through Mdantsane". Daily Dispatch. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011.
  13. ^ "13th Annual Neil Aggett Memorial Lecture".
  14. ^ "Rethinking Art at UCT".
  15. ^ "Visual Art of Poet, Artist, Dr. Amitabh Mitra".
  16. ^ "Like the bird who flew, Poetry of Prabhatkiran Bose". Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  17. ^ "Translation of Prabhatkiran Bose's Bangla Poetry". Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  18. ^ "2011 International Symposium for Poetry and Medicine, University of Warwick, UK". Archived from the original on 12 July 2012.
  19. ^ "Poetry and Medicine".
  20. ^ "Daily Dispatch, South Africa's premier daily features Splinters of a Mirage Dawn, Anthology of Migrant Poetry of South Africa".
  21. ^ "A Hudson View Poetry Digest". Archived from the original on 19 February 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  22. ^ "Inyathi Journal trumpets its success". 28 August 2008. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010.

External links[edit]