February 8, 1997- May 15, 2013
The history of art is full of obscure but brilliant, people who never quite got their due, despite their immense talents. Oswald Yura is one such. A 16-year-old boy from a little-Known Island in the Nicobars – Little Nicobar – India, had a keen eye for art, but sadly, committed suicide on the 15th of May 2013 – over a girl. Though there is virtually no record as such of his art, there is no doubt that his legacy is a grand one. He was, after all, a born artist!
He had an understanding which even great artists lack. Basic tools of paintings: colours, pencil, pen, brush, eraser and pens were almost alien to him. His canvas was sand, and a twig of wood or any pointed object was his paintbrush. He never attended art school, nor was he taught art by anyone, yet, he would draw objects and subjects around him with utmost clarity and detail. The simplicity he practised in his life was a mere reflection of his own self. A witty sense of humour coupled with a grounded outlook towards life made people look forward to his company.
During my PhD fieldwork, Oswald was my constant companion. He would come aboard, snorkel while I was underwater, and at times he would assist me in data collection. Every time I visited Nicobar, I would get a gift for Oswald and in return, he would draw something on the sand as a token of appreciation for my gift.
His creative energy flowed most when he was on the beach. For hours he would sit alone in one corner and draw different scenes out of his surroundings, which must be a vent to Oswald’s own ambivalence regarding his space on earth. Sometimes he would draw a sea dragon, a festival scene, or a village scene with chickens and children playing. And at times he would draw these intense figures of imaginary animals — all on the sand.
But unfortunately, there is no record of his artwork, except when he drew me a scene of the Indian Navy chasing away Burmese poachers. I remember, his words, when I showed him a picture of his only drawings: “Vardhan bhaya, good you have pictures of my drawings, if you miss me at least you have something to look at”. Today, if alive, he would be 17 Yrs. Even though he lived for such few years, his life was full of depth and imagination, much like Oswald himself.
The following drawings are a few examples of his unusual art.
Rest in peace, Oswald!