ON 2 JULY 2001, on the Japanese island of Honshu, Jangarh Singh Shyam hanged himself from the ceiling fan in his room. He had been living at the Mithila Museum on an arts residency. He was 37. Two worlds mourned Jangarh — artists and central India’s Gond community. The rest of us barely noticed the passing of the prodigious Adivasi artist who had made Paris gasp. Nine years later, few of us still have a sense of how much Jangarh’s life and death has wrought.
On the morning of 12 July 2010, Mayank Shyam steps out of his black Santro and waits for his mother Nankusia to emerge in her best sari. The 24-year-old had driven 12 hours from Bhopal to Patangarh village the previous week. Patangarh is the bright green village in the hills of eastern Madhya Pradesh, where his father Jangarh Shyam came from. Several admirers have gathered here to unveil a bust of Jangarh.