A renowned lekhindra (hereditary artist) of the Pithora painting tradition, Pema Fatya was born in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh. His father and grandfather were both painters, and painting was associated with ritualistic aspects of life in the community. Fatya was also a painter for his community and used the ground as his medium.
He came to prominence in the 1980s when the artist and director of Bharat Bhavan, Jagdish Swaminathan identified him, along with Jangarh Singh Shyam, and commissioned their work for the Roopankar Gallery. He was among the first artists from the Bhil community to make art for a museum and gallery, using canvas as a medium; this separated his work from being only ceremonial. In his work, Fatya uses taut lines and coloured accents to depict the life of the Bhil community – their rituals, work and dwelling. Alongside painting for his new audiences, Fatya continued to paint for the community and would often have a priest administering the work.
Fatya’s work was widely exhibited and his paintings are displayed in a number of institutions such as Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, New Delhi; Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal; Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum and Madhya Pradesh Tribal Folk Academy. He was awarded the Shikhar Samman in 1986 and Tulsi Samman in 2017.
Fatya passed away in 2020, in Jhabua.
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[a]While newspapers report that he was about 85 years old when he passed away, there is no concrete source pointing towards his year of birth.