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Friends, Colleagues Fondly Remember 'Incredibly Generous' Art Historian Kavita Singh

The acclaimed writer and academic, ex-Dean of JNU’s School of Arts & Aesthetics, died at the age of 58 after a two-year-long battle with cancer.
Kavita Singh

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: Friends, colleagues and students showered encomiums on art historian Kavita Singh, who died on Sunday, remembering her as a "stylish Sardarni", an incredibly generous person and a pillar of strength.

The acclaimed writer and academic died at the age of 58 after a two-year-long battle with cancer.

Singh, who served as the dean of Jawaharlal Nehru University's School of Arts and Aesthetics from 2017 to 2019, specialised in the history of Indian painting, particularly the role played by colonial and religious institutions in shaping the country's art form.

From celebrated historian William Dalrymple to noted economist Jayati Ghosh, people from different walks of life took to Twitter to condole the demise of the "brilliant" and "inspiring" Singh.

While Dalrymple termed the art historian's death as an "irreplaceable loss" and the "saddest news", Ghosh remembered Singh as a "pillar of strength" in JNU who "kept her academic contributions flowing even while managing the most immense challenges in the university and her health".

"This is the saddest news... RIP lovely, brilliant Kavita Singh who always dazzled the Jaipur Literature Festival with her fabulous insights into Mughal painting and did so much to educate us all on obscure recesses of Indian art history. What an irreplaceable loss," tweeted Dalrymple, the bestselling author of City of Djinns and The Last Mughal.

A PhD in art history from Panjab University, Singh taught at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, from 1991 to 1997 and was also an art curator at the National Museum.

"We've lost such a wonderful human being. Kavita Singh was brave, brilliant, committed. May she continue to inspire others," tweeted Ghosh.

The Infosys Science Foundation, which in 2018 awarded Singh the prize in the humanities category for her "extraordinarily illuminating study of Mughal, Rajput and Deccan art", and 'Karwaan' -- a student-led initiative to promote heritage and history -- which organised a keynote address on July 15 by Singh, also expressed their sadness on her demise.

"She was one of the bravest and most courageous human beings. She will always be an inspiration to all of us," tweeted 'Karwaan'.

A recipient of multiple awards and grants, Singh authored and co-authored many books and monographs on Indian art, including New Insights Into Sikh Art (2003), InFlux: Contemporary Art in Asia (2013)No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia (2014) and Museums, Heritage, Culture: Into the Conflict Zone (2015).

Several of her colleagues and students also took to Twitter to pay homage to her

"Learned a devastating news that our colleague Prof Kavita Singh passed away. Too early! A brilliant scholar, fine human being and someone who stood up to the tyranny during dark moments of JNU crisis," tweeted Sharad Bhaviskar, a professor at JNU.

Documentary filmmaker and teacher Uzma Azhar Ali tweeted: "Kavita Singh!! My most favourite person at JNU. Such a brilliant scholar and the coolest, most generous and stylish Sardarni! Learnt so much. Will always remember you as a fighter and a winner."

"Farewell and rest in power Professor Kavita Singh. As a teacher, you inspired us so much! Your classes were so mesmerizing and led so many of us to continue in academia!  Salute you for standing up for JNU as Dean!  We will all miss you and remember you fondly!" tweeted Mukesh Kulriya, a research scholar.

Singh was cremated at the Lodhi Road crematorium in Delhi on Monday.

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