Eminent artist Haku Shah, whose art works portrayed the simplicity of life, and who was known for staying true to Gandhian principles and philosophy, died on Thursday aged 85 at his home in Ahmedabad after suffering a cardiac arrest.
He was cremated at VS Hospital crematorium in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Shah played a crucial role in conserving and preserving arts and crafts hiding in the lesser known parts of India. Born on March 26, 1934 in Surat, Shah donned many roles, including that of a cultural anthropologist, curator, and an author on folk and tribal art and culture.
Having assisted art critic Stella Kramrisch in curating the exhibition ‘Ritual Art in Tribe and Village — Art of Unknown India’ in the US in 1968, Shah also conceived and designed the one-of-its-kind multi-art and crafts complex in Udaipur called Shilpgram, apart from setting up a tribal museum at Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad.
Shah’s son, photographer Parthiv Shah said, “He is one of those rare artists who tried to amalgamate two to three art practices. This was unlike a reputed trained architect, who will simply be an architect and won’t do anything else. There are very few people like Satyajit Ray, who was not only a filmmaker and made films like Pather Panchali, but also a writer, illustrator, and novelist.”
Shah, who was an alumnus of MS University in Baroda, finished his Masters in Fine Arts under late KG Subramanyan, and went on to win the Padma Shri, the Gagan Avani Purashkar, the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship, and the Kala Ratna award for outstanding work in the art field. He would also publish his memoirs, titled Manush, in 2009.
Veteran artist Manu Parekh, who joined the Weavers’ Service Centre, which worked with weavers from across the country, and met Shah — one of the artists working on craft and textiles there — for the first time in 1963, said, “Haku knew very well about crafts and craftsmen and was in direct touch with the village craftsmen. I don’t know many people who have such deep connections with villages craftsmen. In our country especially, we need these kind of artists.”