In the middle of the COVID-19 catastrophe in 2020, when most of us were frustrated, bored, depress, and unlikely positive, one young man from Arunachal Pradesh gained popularity through social media and became the ‘Charcoal Artist’ of the state.
Jonathan Lampha Wangpan, a 26–year-old man who has been born and brought up in the Changlang district of Arunachal, belongs to the Wancho community- a tribe popular for their art and woodcrafts. Having inherited the art since birth, Wangpan took a chance to add more meaning to his life and create sparks in a new normal.
During the lockdown period, instead of sitting idle at home, Jonathan decided to fulfil his long-time wish of painting on a bigger surface with the use of raw materials. He collected a ply sheet, charcoals from his kitchen Chula (fireplace), some other materials needed and started making portraits of prominent figures of the time like Mr Bean, union minister Kiren Rijiju, Snoop Dogg, etc. He uploaded and showcased his work on Facebook, without any expectation or idea of going viral. In recent times there are many skilful artists who also upload pictures of their artwork and paintings but what made Jonathan win the hearts of thousands is his creative and unique choice of materials and his down to earth attitude that reflected in his captions.
“Surely I am not the only one who thought of using real charcoal instead of a charcoal pencil but it’s simply that I acted on my thought,” he said speaking to this correspondent.
Jonathan was into sketch and art since childhood and has been always imaginative.
“I have been interested in art right from an early age. It all began with me drawing my favourite cartoon characters. But neither my parents nor I ever thought that one can become popular by drawing and painting,” he said, adding, “And the lack of opportunity and scope only added to this hopelessness.”
However, Jonathan’s life was not smooth as it is now. He was into substance abuse right from a young age and he even failed his Class XII examination. But a friend of his stood by him like solid support and pulled him back to the better ways of life. He took Jonathan to the church regularly and this brought about a drastic change in Jonathan and he gave up all his bad habits. Meanwhile, he even completed a two-year diploma in theology from Servanthood Bible School, Dimapur, Nagaland.
When Jonathan’s art became an internet sensation in the region Fr Felix Anthony, a media secretary of Miao Diocese of Changlang district, in appreciation wrote an article on this local artist. The article was later got published in many prominent papers of Arunachal Pradesh and he was interviewed by Arunachal Today.
Now that people appreciate and support him he is more inspired to learn, innovate and inspire people through his art without leaving his church ministry works.
“It is God’s grace that among so many other good artists in the state I got lucky to be noticed by people” he added while speaking to this correspondent.
He now gets compensation works in his area and the district administration also offered him a project for painting the district library with good remuneration.
(The story has been published in the July edition of Northeast Today)