From Patangarh to Canberra

Art history/ Historiography

From Patangarh to Canberra: The Meteoric Rise of Jangarh Singh Shyam

Crites, Mitchell Abdul Karim

The Poetics and Politics of Indian Folk and Tribal Art

Issue #004, Summer, 2020                                                                       ISSN: 2581- 9410

  In 1981, J. Swaminathan, among the foremost of India’s modern artists and the founding director of the Bharat Bhavan cultural center in Bhopal, sent out teams of young student researchers across the length and breadth of the state of Madhya Pradesh in the hope of learning more about the folk and tribal arts and crafts of the region and to discover individuals who displayed exceptional artistic potential.  During one of these expeditions, Jangarh Singh Shyam, was chanced upon and over the next twenty years he would evolve into one of the greatest indigenous artists India has ever produced.  Jangarh became my friend and as my wife and I got to know him better and collected his drawings and paintings, we marveled at his meteoric rise.  This is Jangarh’s story - his struggle and pain, triumph and tragedy, filtered through our relationship over the last sixteen years of his amazing life. Vivek Tembe, a young researcher and budding artist himself, arrived in the remote village of Patangarh, in district Mandla in the southeast corner of the state in the spring of 1981.   I had the good fortune to interview Vivek last year about what happened on that historic  trip.  While wandering through the streets of the small village of Patangarh, ...
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