If ever there was an amalgam of Christian gospel and social values the best place to find those would probably be in the paintings of Lakhi Ram Boruah.
Several of the 43 paintings, which had studded the walls of Vision Art Asom, a private art gallery at Jorhat, speak of the painter’s need to define these values through Christian gospel.
However, these paintings composed in the fifties, sixties and seventies have seldom made their way into the fine arts firmament of the state.
Even lesser known is the artist Lakhi Ram Boruah.
To bring out this unsung doyen of the art world, his works, preserved by his family, are being exhibited at Vision Arts Asom from Monday.
One of the organizers, Raj Kumar Mazinder, convenor of RJ Foundation, Silchar and assistant professor in Visual Arts in Assam University said very few people know about the genius of this person.
“He is possibly the first academic artist of the Northeast having attended and acquired a diploma degree in fine arts from Government School of Art in Calcutta from 1914-19. Abanindranath Tagore, Jamini Prakash, Lala Iswari Prasad including Principal Percy Brown were possibly teachers of Lakhiram Baruah and taught him about the western school and the Indian traditional miniature painting styles.
“He lived at a time when the appreciation and value of art was wanting, especially in India. However, several of his earlier works have been bought by British and American people,” Mazinder further said.
Narrating the life of Boruah, Mazinder said he had been born in a Brahmin family at Mangaldai in Darrang district in 1889. He had married three times.
“His first wife died in childbirth, the second after giving birth to five children and with the third he had seven children, six sons and one daughter. It was after his third marriage that he converted to Christianity,” Marine said.
What prompted him to convert is unknown. Maya Boruah Gohain, his daughter, who had attended the inaugural ceremony said he was deeply drawn to all the religions and had found Christianity to be the best.
Whatever the reason, Lakhi Ram in his later phase is supposed to have painted for the church and through his paintings had demonstrated the social values. Conjoined in the paintings one could find Gandhi along with Jerusalem Christmas carrying the burden of the cross and the commentary would be from both the Gospel as well as the preaching of Mahatma Gandhi.
In another it would be Vivekananda with Christ.
In yet another the pastoral festival of Bihu is compared to the birth of Christ in a manger, a pastoral backdrop. Jesus is also referred to as a Shepherd.
Anil Boruah, one of the sons of Lakhi Ram and pastor of Borbhetta Baptist Church, in whose house the paintings are preserved spoke on the varied media – poetries, songs, dramas and paintings as tools through which his father had taken the gospel message in the Assamese cultural context.
Artist Parikshit Baruah, who is the owner of Vision Art Asom, Jail Road said his paintings were bold, engaging with the use of bright colours.
“His art in today’s age would have been there at the top with the best, ” he said.
Apart from Christianity, other concerns like whether man could make it to the moon and the destruction of the atom bomb, smoking, drinking and cancer were also painted.
Lakhi Ram died on April 1, 1977.