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We meet Bhuri Bai, one of India’s best known contemporary Bhil artists at her workspace in the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum

Averse to closed rooms, Bhuri Bai works out of a public space at the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum in Bhopal, watching and talking to people coming in and out of the Museum. The long corridor adjacent to her work station hosts a mural painted by the artist that tells the story of her life, in the language she knows best, Bhil painting. Despite drawing from tradition, the idioms of Bhil painting transform in her hands — the usually bright colours become almost fluorescent, and classic motifs of flora and fauna take on a new expressive potential.

For Bhuri Bai, tradition is not about strict preservation but legacy. At home, she teaches her grandchildren how to paint, sitting on mats laid out in the living room. Her walls are lined with the many felicitations and awards she has received over her career, achievements she describes without fanfare, expressing that they too will go when she is gone. For her, the work remains in ensuring that her art remains alive for generations to come. “I have taught the kids really well to take my legacy forward and make it shine,” she shares.

In this BMW Artist Film, Bhuri Bai tells us about her origins as an artist and the future relevance of art forms like Bhil.

Bhuri Bai was born in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh. She was awarded India’s fourth highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri in 2021. Her work will be shown at India Art Fair by Inherited Arts Forum.