"My mother was my biggest cheerleader and she would always encourage me to make each painting better than the previous one."
Dressed in a white top and red skirt, a woman sweeps the verandah of her house, while another, a few miles away, struggles to get a hold of her cattle. In another part of the same village, two women can be seen grazing their land, all on the canvas of an award-winning painting.
The painting titled ‘My mother and neighbouring mothers’ is set against a rural landscape and portrays mundane life. The burst of colours brings out a sense of certain beauty in everyday chores undertaken by the painter’s mother and other rural women.
Four years ago, when Anujath Sindhu Vinaylal from Kunduvara town in Kerala’s Thrissur district, had started painting it, little did he know that it would, one day, go on to win the first prize at an international competition.
Then nine-years-old, Anujath completed the painting with no intentions of submitting it for any competitions. He had done it purely out of love for his mother.
However, last year, his father, Vinaylal, decided to participate in an international drawing competition conducted by Shankar’s Academy of Art and Book Publishing in Delhi. The result was announced when his mother, Sindhu, was alive. However, by the time certificate and medal arrived, she had passed away from a heart condition.
Today, the medal lies on her photo-frame, with Anujath’s passion for painting becoming stronger.
“My mother was my biggest cheerleader, and she would always encourage me to make each painting better than the previous one. With her faith and my father’s support, I hope to pursue this professionally after I complete my studies,” Anujath, now 14, tells The Better India.
Winning Is Not The Goal
Anujath started painting when he was barely four, and it was his mother who identified his talent.
Like his father, he too had a keen interest in observing his surroundings and articulating them through his drawings. His subjects vary from something as simple as an ant crawling near the basin to a book lying on a shelf.
Vinaylal, a graphic designer, nurtured Anujath’s art in a very different manner. He did not send him to any classes as he believed that an institution would limit his curious mind with guidelines and rules. So, Anujath started participating in various competitions through the insistence of his school, Devamatha CMI Public School.
In 2013, he was judged as the best outstanding artist of the year in Asia’s largest children’s painting competition; it was organised by the Kerala Disaster Management Authority, YMCAs, and Balarama.
Anujath was barely nine when he won the Clint Memorial International Painting Competition conducted by Kerala Tourism in 2014.
A year later, the United Nations honoured him for his painting on ‘We Have the Power’ in an international competition held for children from countries in the Asia-Pacific Region.
In the same year, he participated in the ‘Art for Mehac’ Exhibition at the India International Centre in Delhi and won the India-Africa Forum Summit 2015 National Award from the Minister of External Affairs.
However, the proudest moment for the family was the honour bestowed on him from India’s former President Pranab Mukherjee. The family flew to Delhi to collect the National Child Award for Exceptional Achievement on Children’s Day in 2016.
“He won Rs 10,000 and books worth Rs 3,000, a silver medal, a certificate, and a memento. It was an honour for us to meet our President. We always knew Anujath was talented but accomplishing this at such a tender age was beyond our imaginations,” Vinaylal tells The Better India.
This was Anujath’s last participation, after which he took a break for three years.
During this time, Anujath painted only for himself, “Painting gives me peace. I am transported to a different world every time I paint, and the best part is I can create my own rules and break the conventional routine,” says Ajunath.
“With competitions, there is the pressure to perform and win. We did not want to impose this on him. His real happiness lies in drawing without any expectations. It was only after he convinced us that he loved the spirit of participation because it made him a better artist, that we returned to it,” adds Vinaylal.
In 2019, when Vinaylal heard about the Shankar Academy competition, instead of asking Ajunath to make a new painting, he submitted one that was lying in the house. And the rest is history.
Inspired by the response from his ‘Mother’ painting, the father-duo is working on an exhibition titled ‘Such Wondrous Sights Around Me’ that will be held in April 2020 at the Kerala Lalithakala Academy in Thrissur.
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It is commendable how Anujath did not let the loss of his mother affect his drawing. The boy, instead, used his mother’s faith as his strength for his creative expressions.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
All images are sourced from Vinaylal.