How to Capture the Beauty and Power of Father-Daughter Relationships in Art

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It was on a Sunday afternoon when the idea came to me after I heard a TED talk by Shabana Basij from Afghanistan. It was an extraordinary experience. I felt something had permanently changed inside me. Over the next few days, I watched that talk over and over. Her honesty, her simplicity, and power of narration moved me.

Shabana grew up in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. Despite all odds, her father never lost the courage to fight for her education. He used to say, “People can take away everything from you except your knowledge”. Shabana’s story gave me a strong impulse to do something but I didn’t know ‘what’ and ‘how’. That’s when my red sketchbook and pencil caught my eye. Before I’d even realized it, I had taken my first step.

I illustrated Shabana’s story and posted it on Facebook. It was an impulsive reaction. I found Shabana’s contact and shared the illustration with her. Shabana was so touched that she forwarded it to her students, and then I started getting emails from a lot of other Afghan men! The emails were a note of thanks as they felt someone was trying to showcase Afghan men in a positive light.

I realized that if there are so many positive father-daughter stories in Afghanistan, just imagine the positive stories across the world! My journey had started. I started looking for moving father-daughter stories from across the globe. Some I found, some found me. With every discovery, my desire to create art for people kept growing.

Debasmita Dasgupta (Photo courtesy: Debasmita Dasgupta)

“My Father illustrations” stands for the girl who is one among the 62 million girls in the world who are currently not in school, the girl who is part of the 15 million girls married every year before the age of 18, the girl who is aborted like another 12 million female foetuses in India, and the girl who became one of the 500 acid attack survivors in South Asia (in 2015).

Under these scenarios when I asked, “who can make a difference in these girls’ lives?” One of the answers I found was “a father can!” As a decision-maker in a patriarchal society, a father can celebrate the girl child’s birth, let her complete her education, invest in her further studies, protect her from different forms of abuse, and save her from becoming a child bride.

The stories of Monica Singh, Zahra Lari, or Muniba Mazari and their fathers are such real-life inspirations that the world needs to know more. Those fathers are braving the odds of patriarchy to protect the rights of their daughters. Their voices are to be heard and that is my mission through “My Father illustrations”.

The Unbeatable

Inspired by Monica Singh and her father Mahendra Singh. Monica is an acid attack survivor from India, and student at the Parsons School of Fashion in New York now. Monica has established The Mahendra Singh Foundation to help other survivors, in the name of her pillar of strength, her confidant, her father.


“My Dad is a powerful example of never giving up, regardless of how impossible the obstacles. Over 5 yrs ago, he was hit by a teenage girl who was texting while driving … He lost his left leg, the right leg was crushed, and he suffered through endless surgeries. But he never stopped smiling. He never stopped encouraging people to believe in hope … He always had this deep peace.”


“Patachitra” or “Patua” art is a folk art form of scroll paintings that come from eastern India. Traditionally, this art legacy was passed down from father to son. However, contemporary “patua” artists like Mantu Chitrakar, are breaking this stereotype. Mantu has inspired his daughter, Sonia, to take this tradition forward.


Mike and Lilliana Libecki are not merely explorers. They help people in need through their travels. Inspired by her father, Liliana tells National Geographic: “My main goal while traveling, adventuring & climbing is to find ways to give back to the planet & people in hopes to better the quality of life. I hope to inspire others to get out in nature & care about our planet.”


On Internationalpeaceday, we salute every father who is fighting against violence. This illustration is inspired by the story of Sor Bunthat from Cambodia, who is a farmer, a father, & facilitator of a UNFPA Cambodia programme that helps to prevent domestic violence.


Story of fearless surfers from Nicaragua in Central America!!! This illustration is inspired by Valentina & Manuel Resano who fearlessly ride the waves. Valentina was around a year old when she started surfing with her father. She says: “My Dad is strict but he’s a great teacher”. Enjoy this sprightly father-daughter tale & brighten up your day.


Like many unfortunate young girls, Zeana also had to leave Syria and take refuge in Lebanon. But Zeana is enormously fortunate to have a father like Nizar, who despite all the struggle puts the education of his daughter, first.


“I imagine my father as a super hero sailing in distant seas to rescue animals trapped in nets that fishermen forgot, or animals that would die from eating plastic they confused with food. I don’t want them to kill the animals.” Constanza from Mexico is proud of her father.


When Taofick Okoya decided to create the African dolls, most people said “black dolls don’t sell”. Taofick didn’t give up because he wanted his daughter to feel proud of who she is. In three years, the Queens Of Africa-Black Dolls became one of the best-selling dolls in the world. “I want to use my dolls to teach Nigerian culture, African culture”, he says.


“My father raised me to be involved in making solutions, to always take initiatives.” — Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is a Yemeni human rights activist, politician & journalist. She is the inspiration for today’s My Father illustration.

(Written and illustrated by Debasmita Dasgupta. Debasmita is an illustrator & an arts-for-change advocate based in Singapore. Besides her busy schedule of visual storytelling consulting for publishers & organizations across Asia, she runs the ongoing campaign of My Father illustrations to promote girl child rights by amplifying the voices of fathers who fearlessly fight to protect the rights of their daughters. Debasmita also organizes Doodle with Dada community-based series of art camps for fathers and daughters to sensitize the fathers about the rights of their daughters.)

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