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Sobha Brahma: Artist who gave a contemporary stroke to the north-eastern region\’s tribal art


\”I was torn between Santiniketan and North-east… the conflict between Indian mainstream tradition and the urge to create an independent idiom in art for the North-east…. Besides, there was also a conflict between life in Santiniketan and the harsh reality here,\” \”I virtually stopped using the techniques and media used in Santiniketan and instead of using the brush, I used palette knife to get rid of the influence\”

– Sobha Brahma



Brahma is recognised as the first artist from the north-east India to make an effort to develop a style of art unique to the area with a distinctive idiom. He developed art with a modern twist after carefully researching the Bodo, Rabha, Dimasa, and other tribes\’ lives, artwork, cultural context, shapes, and colours. His contemporaries and admirers remember him not only as an incredibly gifted artist but also for his excellent teaching abilities.


He was born on October 14th, 1929, in the Indian state of Assam\’s Gossaigaon village. In 1952, he graduated from Cotton College in Guwahati with a Higher Secondary degree. In 1957, he received his degree from Kalabhavana Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan, West Bengal. Brahma was tutored for years by outstanding teachers like Ramkinkar Baij and Nandalal Bose. He studied for four years at Cotton College, spending most of that time studying the traditional sculptural forms at Madan Kamdev, Kamakhya, and Sukleswar temples as well as the different prehistoric sculpted forms kept at the museum.

A prolific artist and sculptor of the NE, Brahma has painted and sculpted forms and figures for more than six decades establishing an independent art idiom for the region and creating a niche both in the country and abroad. He felt that Women and Nature shares a common relation. “Like nature, women too continue their lives bearing the pain and agony in them,” he once said. ‘Release’, ‘Aftermath’, ‘Joan of the Arch’, ‘Women Eater’ etc are some of his well-known paintings which reflect the life of women in our society.


In addition to painting, he also wrote a number of novels, including \”Shilpokolar Nabajanmo\” (Assamese), \”Gwdan Uji\” (Bodo), \”Bharatiya Chitrakola\” (Translation), and others. By translating the songs of Ravindranath Tagore into Bodo, he also provided the Bodo people with a taste of Ravindra Sangeet. Numerous of his pieces were on display in particular exhibitions in Dacca, Bangladesh; Sofia, Bulgaria; Rome, Italy; and Prague, Czech Republic. His works are included in the collections of the Government Museum in Chandigarh, the Assam State Museum, Lalit Kala Akademi, and numerous government agencies in Assam, as well as in private collections in Assam, Shillong, Bombay, and Germany.


A deeply introspective artist, Brahma was prolific even in the later phase of his life. He completed several paintings in the year 2006, which now are on display at the art gallery at his residence. Continuing with his effort to promote art, he had created the Sobha Brahma Trust. The creator of ‘Virgin Forest’, ‘Swimmers’, ‘Women Eater’ and several others Sobha Brahma breathed his last at the age of 83 at the Hayat hospital after a prolonged illness.

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