Tribal Art & Culture of Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan
(Bhil & Gond Paintings)

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Mohan Singh Shyam of Patangarh was overjoyed when two of his paintings were selected by Jangarh Shyam and sent to the Akhil Bhartiya Kalidas Samaroh in Ujjain. When the paintings were sold, Mohan Singh Shyam was glad that he has also found a second source of income. 

Both paintings had a similar theme. In the first, he had depicted a road with his footprints. “There is always someone who walks on the road first and leaves his footprints behind. Later people see those footprints and simply take that path.” The second painting depicted the wind, which Mohan visualised as a small circle that gradually expanded, the way the wind grows more intense. “The wind clears the path so that others may walk on it.” The paintings were inspired by Jangarh Singh Shyam, a pioneer of the present genre of Gond painting.
Mohan Singh Shyam’s journey as an artist is bound up with his rural upbringing. He likes painting the animals and birds he saw while growing up in Patangarh. 

He was five when he started painting on the walls of his house, with his mother Raja Bai. His father, Jagat Ram encouraged him to help his mother with her art work during festive occasions. 

Mohan tells the children who attend his painting workshop every year in Patangarh about Jangarh Singh Shyam and J Swaminathan: “Because of them we have been able to establish ourselves as artists and because of them the world is now aware of the Gonds and their culture.” When Mohan first came to Bhopal, he worked as a cook. One day Jangarh asked him to try his hand at painting. He had seen Mohan’s clay figures and was convinced of his potential. This was the turning point in Mohan’s life.

Mohan has exhibited his paintings in Delhi, Ujjain, Punjab, Khajuraho, Nasik, Raipur, Amarkantak and Bhopal. He was also among the artists involved in the West Holland Animation Film Workshop in Bhopal in 2004. He works in the IGRMS Museum as a daily wage earner. One of the walls in the museum depicts his work along with the work of other artists. 

Mohan’s wife Dhaniya Bai is also an established artist. Their ten year old daughter, Kunti Shyam is already a promising artist, although Kirti Shyam, the younger daughter has not yet shown such an inclination. Their two year old son, Daneshyam loves to play with colours, and screams with joy – “Painting! Painting!”.


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