Haku Vajubhai Shah
26 March 1934
|Died||21 March 2019 (aged 84)|
|Known for||Painting, tribal art, Ethnography, curation, Cultural anthropology|
|Children||Parthiv Shah, Setu Shah|
|Awards||Padma Shri (1989)|
Haku Vajubhai Shah (26 March 1934 – 21 March 2019) was an Indian painter, Gandhian, cultural anthropologist and author on folk and tribal art and culture. His art belonged to the Baroda Group and his works are considered in the line of artists who brought themes of folk or tribal art to Indian art.
He received several awards including the Padma Shri (1989), the Jawarharlal Nehru Fellowship and the Kala Ratna for his contribution to art.
Haku Vajubhai Shah was born on 26 March 1934, in Valod (now in Surat district, Gujarat) to Vajubhai and Vadanben. His mother was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and it influenced him. He completed his primary and secondary school education in Valod and was an active member of student union. He graduated in Fine Arts (BFA) from The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in 1955, followed by a master's degree in Fine Arts (MFA) from the same university. He worked at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, primarily as a ethnographer. He and Eberhard Fischer (art historian) collaborated on several craft documentation and ethographic research studies. In 1970, Fischer and Shah published the book Rural Craftsmen and their Work at NID.
His work caught the public eye, and by 1965 he had held several one-man shows in Kolkata and Mumbai. In 1968, he curated the 'Unknown India' exhibition, organized by Art Critic Stella Kramrisch at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He received the Rockefeller Grant in the same year and in 1971, the Nehru Fellowship Award.
Over the years, he carried out extensive field research and documentation on rural and tribal arts and crafts, traditions and folk lore. He taught at a Gandhian Ashram in south Gujarat for several years and established a tribal museum at Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad, which was set up by Mahatma Gandhi. Haku curated the museum for several years, which was to become his last legacy.
His work is deeply influenced by the tribal art and culture, a theme on which he wrote several of his works, and also Bhakti movement, especially its Nirguna poetry. He was also deeply influenced by Gandhian philosophy. In 1980s, he was also instrumental in the foundation of Shilpgram, a crafts village, in Udaipur, Rajasthan.
In 2009, he published his memoirs titled, Manush.
He died on 21 March 2019 in Ahmedabad following cardiac arrest at his home.