PARTICIPANT / Venkat Raman Singh Shyam

  • Name Venkat Raman Singh Shyam

Venkat Raman Singh Shyam was born into a Pardhan Gond family in the village of Sijhora, situated 80 km from Patangarh in eastern Madhya Pradesh. Venkat’s father, Pyare Lal Shyam, worked as a peon in the schools of Sijhora. [2]

Venkat lived with his family in Sijhora till 1986, when his uncle, the famous Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam visited them. Jangarh urged young Venkat to join him in Bhopal and train in his studio. After initial reluctance, the sixteen-year old accompanied him to the city and lived with Jangarh and his mother Aadhara Bai in Jangarh’s house in Professors’ Colony, Bhopal. He worked as his apprentice for three years.

Around this time, Venkat also developed his own figural style as he began painting signboards for a meagre fifty rupees per day. Eventually, an altercation with Aadhara Bai led Venkat to leave his uncle’s house for Delhi where he worked as domestic help in a police officer’s household for some time until he managed to escape the exploitative conditions with a group of painters. Soon, a relative introduced him to the artist Jagdish Swaminathan— Jangarh’s mentor and the first director of Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal.

In 1993, Venkat left Delhi due to bad health and financial hardship. He briefly went back to Bhopal, and then to Sijhora where his family forced him to get married. Shortly after, he came back to Bhopal. In 2008, Venkat was witness to the terrorist attack on the Taj Hotel in Colaba, Mumbai. His experiences led to a sixteen-painting series on the event.

His wife, Saroj Shyam, who hails from the village Rasoi, is also an artist who grew up close to the Baiga tribe and is as aware of their stories and legends as she is with Gond myths. Saroj primarily makes Dighna on paper, the traditional patterns painted on the walls of Gond homes.[3]

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