I must admit I am a bit obsessed with reading obituaries. Of course, I would prefer to learn about amazing people or the occasional talking parrot while they are still alive, but many times I only learn about them in the carefully crafted obituaries that many periodicals take great pride in. It’s funny because there is definitely an art to obituaries, and many authors take some license to reveal something heretofore unknown about very famous people (who knew Lux Interior has a voice over role on Sponge Bob Square pants?!), or lift a person like Nek Chand from relative obscurity—at least in the western canon—to the great delight of folks like me.
Nek Chand, for the uninitiated, is similar in some respects to Hundertwasser and Sisyphus. Left parentless at an early age after the creation of modern-day India, he assumed the role of a civil servant, yet had a vision of art, which he acted upon by creating an entire city of sculpture made from pot shards and other everyday waste, cemented together. His art has a look not unlike Nikki St Phalle, with sinuous lines and a bric-a-brac embroidered look that somehow looks harmonious. Apparently he laboured for years on his city in the middle the jungle, until the city expanded out to him. Threatened with destruction by civilizing forces, his vision was saved, and ultimately celebrated. The Economist obituary claims only the Taj Mahal gets more visitors each day.
Nek Chand was untrained (a primitive, I guess), yet the beauty and sheer magnitude of his “city” can only be described as art. Hundertwasser built a toilet in a remote village in New Zealand and made it a tourist attraction. Nek Chand built a visionary city in a jungle. I am glad I have discovered him and his gentle and humble art.