Painting Delhi red

ByProma Chakraborty

Dec 13, 2018

Carrying forward her father’s legacy, Gond artist Japani Shyam and her brother are painting the monuments of Delhi as never seen before

For artists Japani and Dilip Shyam, art runs in their blood. Born into the family of the pioneering Gond artist, Jangarh Singh Shyam, they were introduced to this distinct style of painting at an early age.

Japani was all of 11 when she received her first award – the Kamaladevi Award for craftsmanship in 1999. It was her father, Jangarh Shyam, who submitted her works for the award without her knowledge. He is noted for having brought the tribal art of Gond into mainstream art.

Not only were all her works sold out, but she learned that they were well appreciated and admired. This realisation, along with the award, served as a catalyst and her interest in art grew. However, she soon lost her father in 2001 at a tender age of 13. After his death, it hit her that it was her responsibility to take his work forward. From then on, she has been working on this and is one of the well-known names in the world of Gond art now.

Gond art – a form of painting indigenous to the Gond tribes of Madhya Pradesh – tells tribal stories of gods and goddesses, birds, forests and folklore. Bringing something new to the table, Japani and her elder cousin Dilip Shyam are exhibiting their works in the city.

Titled ‘Gond Views’, the exhibition stands out for portraying Delhi through Gond art. “We are tribal artists. We have always portrayed our tribal stories and our culture in the paintings. For the first time, we have shown how we view the city and its landmarks through our work,” says Japani.

Marked with vivid detailing, the paintings depict the iconic historical monuments of the capital. The vibrant colours and intricate designs of these artworks leave the viewers awestruck and somehow these monuments seem to look even more spectacular.

Jangarh Shyam’s style reflects in his daughter’s work but she has developed her own style. “In the absence of my father I was forced to think for my own. Unlike me, he hailed from a village and his works mostly portrayed the myth and tales of his native place. I have heard of these stories and I incorporate them in my work in a modern style,” Japani explains.

On the same lines, Dilip Shyam adds, “My uncle taught me and I trained with him in the beginning. But after his death I started developing my own style. The detailing works and patterns are different from his. My signature style is leaves. Gond art has a different theme mostly about tales of deities, and nature. But I have used my own style and given my spin to how the monuments of Delhi would look in Gond Art style.”

Japani firmly believes that new artists will emerge and take this art forward just like she has. So, drop in at India International Centre from December 13 to 18 to view the monuments of your city in a different perspective.