23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Bhajju Shyam

Bhajju Shyam was born in 1971 in Patangarh, India. He already decorated the walls of his house in the style of traditional Indian Gond painting when he was still a child. He went to Bhopal to do casual work at the age of 16 and, while there, his uncle recognised his talent and encouraged him to embark on an artistic life. Shyam soon made a name for himself throughout India as a painter and illustrator.

Shyam left India for the first time in 2002 after being invited by London restaurant Masala Zone to paint its walls in the Gond style. He has recorded what he experienced during his several weeks in London in the illustrated book »The London Jungle Book« (2004). In it, the iconic face of London with its many world-famous sites encounters the four-armed goddesses, birdmen and underground worms of Indian mythology. Shyam explores London by availing himself of far-eastern narrative richness and the western modernity and intermingling them with a great deal of fantasy. At the heart of the book »The Night Life of Trees« (2006), which was illustrated by Shyam and two other artists, are the stories and secrets of different trees that are meaningful for the Gond people. One of the book’s special features is the fact that every single copy was produced by hand using screen printing in a small print shop in the Indian town of Chennai, thus making every one unique. In »That’s How I See Things« (2007) Shyam illustrated a picture book in which the power of art and the power of our fantasy are looked at in an imaginative manner. »Alone in the Forest« (2013) is the most recent book to be illustrated by Shyam and deals with the universal theme of fear and how we cope with it.

Vibrant colours and strong contrasts are characteristic for Shyam’s illustration style. Poetic and at the same time displaying stylish elements of inner contemplation and with their unfamiliar aesthetics, his pictures conjure up the magic of a world whose religious and mythical diversity is something the western observer is unacquainted with. Shyam’s books are highly aesthetic works of art dedicated to philosophical questions, but dealt with in a way that children can understand without trying to teach them a lesson. His books, such as »Alone in the Forest« , are impressive, not least due to the well-thought-through and organic interplay of text and image.

Bhajju Shyam has illustrated eight books to date, which have been translated into ten languages. His illustrations have been exhibited in London, Milan and Paris, among other places. In 2001 he was awarded the Indian State Prize as best indigenous artist; in 2008 he received the renowned Bologna Ragazzi Award and, in 2010, the IBBY-Certificate of Honour for Illustration. Bhajju Shyam lives with his wife and two children in Bophal.


The London Jungle Book

Tara Books

Chennai, 2004

That’s How I See Things

[Text: Sirish Rao]

Tara Books

Chennai, 2007

The Flight of the Mermaid

[Text: Gita Wolf u. Sirish Rao]

Tara Books

Chennai, 2009

Das Geheimnis der Bäume

[Text: Gita Wolf, Sirish Rao]

[Ill: Bhajju Shyam, Durga Bai u. Ram Singh Urveti]


Zürich, 2009

[Ü: Eveline Masilamani-Meyer]

Alone in the Forest

[Text: Gita Wolf u. Andrea Anastasio]

Tara Books

Chennai, 2013