Rambharos Jha | Tara Books 2012 | Limited Edition | 28 pages
Waterlife is a very special book. It is fit for any child’s bookshelf or adult’s coffee table. Whereas there is no storyline in the traditional picture book sense, there is a story in its art and the making of the book. Illustrated in his version of the Mithila tradition of folk art, artist and author Rambharos Jha depicts several creatures of the water in 12 spreads. Each creature is accompanied by a few sentences describing its significance to his culture, his upbringing and his experience drawing it. Each of these briefs is rich with reference to a culture of symbols and motifs. Each one provides clues to the place that the creature has in Jha’s life and imagination. Collectively, they paint not only a picture of water life but the artist’s life.
This is my picture-tribute to a well-known fable from the ancient Indian story collection, Panchatantra. A crane visits a shoal of fish living in a pond. He warns them of an impending drought. He offers to save the fish, by carrying them away, one by one, to another pond with plenty of water and food. The fish agree. But very soon we realize what is going on…the fish become food for the crane!
This is a limited edition book that has heirloom written all over it. Each illustration is made of a patient compilation of fine lines, textures and patterns, colored in the most luscious and restrained palette. Each illustration exhibits a charming innocence while at the same time a commanding mastery of the medium. Jha’s technique of finely woven lines makes each illustration hypnotically undulate as if it were alive. They are screen printed by hand on a highly textured hand-made cotton paper. They are printed and bound in India. This is a perfect gift book for a 6-year old, college graduate, or retiree.