The story of a child prodigy

February 8, 1997- May 15, 2013

The history of art is full of obscure but brilliant, people who never quite got their due, despite their immense talents. Oswald Yura is one such. A 16-year-old boy from a little-Known Island in the Nicobars – Little Nicobar – India, had a keen eye for art, but sadly, committed suicide on the 15th of May 2013 – over a girl. Though there is virtually no record as such of his art, there is no doubt that his legacy is a grand one. He was, after all, a born artist!

Oswal Yura (Photo: Vardhan Patankar)
Oswald Yura, an artist who would not compromise

He had an understanding which even great artists lack. Basic tools of paintings: colours, pencil, pen, brush, eraser and pens were almost alien to him. His canvas was sand, and a twig of wood or any pointed object was his paintbrush. He never attended art school, nor was he taught art by anyone, yet, he would draw objects and subjects around him with utmost clarity and detail. The simplicity he practised in his life was a mere reflection of his own self. A witty sense of humour coupled with a grounded outlook towards life made people look forward to his company.

Oswald Yura (Photo: Vardhan Patankar)
Oswald Yura


During my PhD fieldwork, Oswald was my constant companion. He would come aboard, snorkel while I was underwater, and at times he would assist me in data collection. Every time I visited Nicobar, I would get a gift for Oswald and in return, he would draw something on the sand as a token of appreciation for my gift.

His creative energy flowed most when he was on the beach. For hours he would sit alone in one corner and draw different scenes out of his surroundings, which must be a vent to Oswald’s own ambivalence regarding his space on earth. Sometimes he would draw a sea dragon, a festival scene, or a village scene with chickens and children playing. And at times he would draw these intense figures of imaginary animals — all on the sand.

But unfortunately, there is no record of his artwork, except when he drew me a scene of the Indian Navy chasing away Burmese poachers. I remember, his words, when I showed him a picture of his only drawings: “Vardhan bhaya, good you have pictures of my drawings, if you miss me at least you have something to look at”. Today, if alive, he would be 17 Yrs. Even though he lived for such few years, his life was full of depth and imagination, much like Oswald himself.

The following drawings are a few examples of his unusual art.

Oswald drawing a scene of Naval ship chasing a Thailand poachers
Oswald drawing a scene of Naval ship chasing away Burmese poachers


Oswald drawing a scene of Indian Coast Guard chasing a Burma poachers
Oswald drawing a scene of Indian Navy chasing away Burmese poachers

Rest in peace, Oswald!

Published by Vardhan Patankar


9 thoughts on “The story of a child prodigy

  1. You brought Oswald alive! The sand sketch is an absolute beauty! It feels hard to imagine that he is no more. But the fact that he committed suicide because of rejection in love(?) is deeply poignant. The Nicobarese were not known to carry such egoistic notions of masculinity the way we do. One of the unfortunate influences among the Nicobarese of contact with mainlanders has been the diffusion of notions of patriarchy and a heightened male ego. A case of savaging the civilized?


  2. Vardhan, I was there for Oswalds remembrance feast after he died. It was held in the village as the Chirsitian prienst refused a ceremony as it was unnatural death and so on. Oswald was a true artist, and i guess you may not be aware, but his late father and late brother were also artists. On Little Nicobar there are a few men who carve out ‘hinthai kowileh’ …these are deceorartive frontispiences of the traditional canoe, and only specific people are entrusted with this art. There are a few others today and Paul, Oswalds father was a well known carver/artist. So i guess he inherited it-at least a perception and translation o observation into art. Good of you to have photographed thoe imkages of his in the sand. All best


  3. Nice article and extraordinary artworks. Feel bad for the great artist.
    May his soul rest in peace


  4. We would have certainly appreciated a few more pictures of his artform. Nice coverage.


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