RAJASTHANI miniature painting skills were exclusive to certain families.
It was a family business. The art form was only taught to sons and daughters-in-law, who would make the paintings and sell for money.
Slowly, the children of these Rajasthani families lost interest and moved on to other jobs to make a living. The gurus (art teachers) then started to teach everyone with the interest to learn.
That was how Ami Jesal, 32, mastered the dying art form.
Ami said those who were very good at it were between the ages of 50 and 80.
“I have always loved to paint and often reproduced images from magazines and calendars, but they are nothing to be proud about.
“I pursued a degree in electronics engineering but I knew I did not want to be an engineer. I worked for a year and continued with my Masters in Business Administration (marketing).
“Then I got married and started travelling within India and got really intrigued by miniature art.
"That was when I had the opportunity to learn under some art gurus (teachers),” she said at her first solo art exhibition at Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Indian Cultural Centre, the cultural wing of Indian High Commission.
Ami said she had always been attracted to minute details.
“At first, I learned a little of Kangra art, a similar form of miniature art which included lesser details and softer colours. Then I ventured into Rajasthani miniature art painting and never looked back.
“Most of my learning took place in a temple at the foothills of mountains in Dharamshala, where I used to spend six to seven hours a day learning the art.
“Over the years of painting miniature art, I realised that many of my works were inspired by Radha Krishna (Hindu gods),” she said.
Ami said she had found her calling in art.
“I can’t remember a single thought of wanting to learn this art, it just happened. When I found the guru, I immediately knew this was what I wanted to do,” she said.
Sixteen of her paintings were on display and most had been sold to private collectors.
Indian High Commissioner T.S. Tirumurti said the range of emotions portrayed showed Ami’s passion and mastery of the medium.
“Everything has a meaning or story behind it. The dark clouds, dense forest and amorous poses can be interpreted in many ways and I hope those who see her works will discover the meanings themselves,” he said.
Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival: Diversity festival director Sunita Rajakumar, who discovered and helped to organise the exhibition, said Ami was oblivious to her talent.
“Ami followed her husband to live in Malaysia over two years. She was a homemaker and spent most of her time painting. A couple of months ago, they were packing to move back to India and did not want to lug all the paintings. That was when a common friend approached me to help them sell the pieces.
“When I saw the uniqueness of Ami’s work, I knew that she needed help to market her work professionally. I helped to photograph her paintings and build a profile, among others, so she can take off from there.
“Malaysia has always been welcoming foreigners into our country. And for this young lady, although she has returned to her home country, she will always have a warm feeling about Malaysia, for having her talent first discovered and celebrated here,” said Sunita.