23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Rambharos Jha

Rambharos Jha was born in 1978 in the Darbhanga district of the Mithila region of Bihar state, India. The family moved to Madhubani when his father found work in a state-funded art and culture project focused on reviving local art traditions and offering artists the possibility to earn a living. As a boy in Madhubani, Rambharos Jha could observe how women, during religious festivals, painted the walls of their houses using paints made from cow manure. Jha ultimately learned to draw, initially choosing to depict stories from Hindu mythology. He eventually switched to secular themes in which he followed his own creative impulses while simultaneously adhering to Mithila tradition.

His first book publication, »Waterlife« (2011), illustrates this tradition of East Indian painting in Bihar; the author transforms themes from sea life above and below the surface of the ocean – rendered in the delicate and artful Mithila style – into quasi-allegories of memory and tradition. The children’s book was silkscreened by hand on handmade paper, and is now also available in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Brazil and Korea, where each edition varies from the next. For example, in the French-language version the texts of the original English edition, which Jha wrote to accompany his images of the sea dwellers, were replaced with 2000-year-old Tamil poems. The German-language edition, »Wasserwelten« (2016), combines all three components. The numbered edition was created, also as silkscreens, at a print shop in Chennai that demonstrated social responsibility towards its employees, thus earning these one-of-a-kind items their »fair trade« label. This book’s tableaux – showing a crane swimming in waves while a crocodile lies in the dark-green water, or a family of fish encountering seahorses – reveal the singularity and preciousness of our aquatic world. While the quoted verses provide associative relevance to the drawings, Jha’s accompanying texts above all give insight into the artistic process of creation: »Lobster is food for us humans. But if it’s not cooked immediately after its death, it’s poisonous. This made me wonder whether the lobster is guarding a secret we know nothing about. I wanted to show the essence of this creature and have thus furnished the lobster with a clutter of lines, patterns and colors. When I finished it, I realized that art has no limits.«

Rambharos Jha’s work has enjoyed exhibitions in India, South Africa, Iceland and the United States.


Ein Kunstbilderbuch aus Indien
Baobab Books
Basel, 2016
[Ü: Eveline Masilamani-Meyer]