Bhajju Shyam was born in 1971 in the Gond tribal village of Patangarh, in the forests of central India. As a child he helped his mother paint on the walls to mark special festivals. At the age of sixteen Bhajju left his village and came to the city of Bhopal in search of work. There, he worked as a night watchman, until getting a chance to become an apprentice of his uncle Jangarh Singh Shyam, the most brilliant Gond artist of the time, and the one who brought Gond Art from the walls of the village into the public eye. Bhajju started by filling in the fine patterns on Jangarh’s large canvases, but when his talent became apparent, Jangarh encouraged him to strike out on his own.
Bhajju’s work soon became known throughout India, and his first international exposure came in 1998 when he was part of a group exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Since then his work has been shown in the UK, Germany, Holland and Russia.
Bhajju has ten books to his credit and his best-known work, The London Jungle Book, is a visual travelogue of his 2002 visit to London, where he went to paint the interior of an up-market Indian restaurant. The book, published by Tara Books and the Museum of London, was released in November 2004, along with a three-month exhibition at the Museum. It has now been published in Italian, Dutch and French, Korean & Portuguese, and the exhibition has since toured the UK, Germany, Holland, Italy and Russia. Other notable exhibitions include his individual showings at Arteutopia Gallery, Provincia di Milano, Milan (2005), the Crossing Borders Festival, The Hague, Netherlands (2005), The Museum in the Docklands, London (2005), the Natural Science History Museum, Bhopal.
Bhajju has received many awards. In 2015, he received the Ojas Art Award at the Jaipur Literature Festival; CRESCER Magazine’s 30 Best Children’s Book Award Brazil in 2011 and Madhya Pradesh Government’s State Award for Best Indigenous Artist in 2001. Bhajju’s works are a part of many private and institutional collections in both India and overseas. Cumulatively, his books have sold nearly a 100,000 copies, worldwide and have been made available in multiple languages. Maa Matre at Ojas Art is his first solo exhibition in India.