ITANAGAR, 26 Jul: The sculptor of the iconic ‘dignity of labour’ statue at Pahalwan Mor along NH 415 between Itanagar and Naharlagun, Takar Riba, passed away on Sunday. He was 72.
Born to Tato Riba and Yangam Bagra Riba in Disi village in the present Leparada district (then Siang), Takar leaves behind a legacy of art in Arunachal. His was an inspiring journey of a poor village boy who became the first artist of the state to receive the state gold medal.
Riba sculpted the ‘dignity of labour’ statue in 1985.
During his school years in Aalo, the then governor of Assam, Jairam Das Daulatram, visited Aalo. Knowing his creativity in art, the school’s teacher asked Takar to draw a picture of the governor while he was addressing the public. Takar instantly drew a larger-than-life portrait of the governor standing in front of him, which bagged him many prizes and was also recorded in a documentary.
In 1961, he won the gold medal in a children’s drawing and painting competition organized by the Rongpur Jyoti Sangh of Sibsagar (Assam). The prize was handed over to him by the then CM of Assam.
In 1968, when the then deputy commissioner of Siang district visited Aalo, Takar confided to the DC his talent for drawing and painting. Later, the DC’s wife invited him to their house and asked him to join Shantiniketan, Calcutta. They bore the travelling expenses from Aalo (NEFA) to Calcutta, where Takar completed a five-year diploma course in fine arts, painting, graphics and sculpture in 1973, and became the first artist of Arunachal.
His works include the ‘dignity of labour’ statue, two elephant and lion heads at the zoological park gate in Itanagar, and primitive human figures for the archaeological museum in Itanagar. He was a recipient of many awards, including the NETV People’s Choice Award.
According to his family members, Riba contracted Covid virus while in hospital.
“On the night of 12 July, he had a health complication due to an ulcer. He was admitted to RKM Hospital the next day, and later shifted to Niba Hospital, and finally to TRIHMS,” informed Prof Tomo Riba, younger brother of Takar.
“In all the hospitals, he tested negative for Covid. On 21 July, I along with my wife went to see him. The crowd in the hospital worried me, and I was sure that he would be infected,” Prof Riba said.
“The room where my brother was admitted was for six patients. But when I counted, in total there were 22 people; that means 16 attendants,” he said.
“At last I said to myself, Maybe the hospital authority is tired of non-cooperation of the public and left the situation to take its own course,” he added. “The situation was completely opposite to all the serious talks of SOPs, curfew, lockdown, social distance, etc.”
“We sent our brother to hospitals for treatment, but he got infected and had to meet a disgraceful death. A little care could have saved my brother’s life. I am not blaming anyone, but I am sad,” Prof Riba said.
Meanwhile, the Galo Welfare Society (GWS) has deeply mourned the demise of Takar Riba.
“The Galo community has lost a true pioneer, an inspiration to many budding artists, a connoisseur of art and aesthetics, a social worker and a philosopher for harmonious growth of the society. The GWS profoundly prays for eternal peace of the departed soul in heavenly abode and extends its deepest condolences to his bereaved family,” it said in a condolence message.
The Agam Neli Popir Party (ANPP) also expressed shock and grief over Riba’s demise.
In a condolence message, the ANPP stated that Takar Riba was one of the senior most members of Agam Neli.
“He was a very compassionate, encouraging and trustworthy person on whom we could always rely for guidance and support. His loss left a vacuum not only for our party but for the entire Galo society,” the ANPP said, and prayed to Donyi-Polo to bestow eternal peace on the departed soul.