First published: Fall 2023

Indian street cobbler Kashinath Chawan devotes his nights and the free time between customers to drawing figures from religion, fiction and politics


Kashinath Chawan was born in around 1950, in India. He is a cobbler and shoe shiner living in a slum near Bombay. Illiterate and self-taught in art, he draws with a ballpoint pen on canvasses that he makes from cardboard scraps torn from old shoeboxes and discarded paper he finds on the street. He values these materials, seeing their imperfections as inspiring and useful rather than as faults or limitations. His drawings are based on the Indian tradition and culture from which he comes, but with his own unique interpretation and style.


Untitled (Swami Samarth, spiritual master), 10.5 x 21.5 in. / 26.5 x 55 cm


Chawan's family belongs to the cobbler caste; his grandfather and his father practised the trade, and it has been his own employment since he was 15 years old. He works on the street, sitting crosslegged on the pavement, taking advantage of the quiet hour of the afternoon when customers are scarce, to draw. At the end of his working day, he takes the unfinished pieces home and continues drawing for several hours into the night when his wife and children are sleeping.


Untitled (Shiva, deity), 13 x 30.5 in. / 33 x 77 cm


In the 1980s, while cycling, Chawan was the victim of a road accident. Hit by a truck, he was left for dead and his recovery has been long and painful. The triple fracture he sustained meant he temporarily lost the use of his right arm. No longer able to perform his job as a cobbler and shoe shiner, and therefore deprived of his salary, he went against his doctor's advice by removing his splint and resuming his trade – but he also did regular physical activity to help him regain arm mobility.


Untitled (Sant Gajanan Maharaj, guru), 9.5 x 12 in. / 24 x 31 cm


It was at this time that he began to draw, in a casual way and without any real intention or goal. He has no ambitions to be an artist but rather finds in the act of drawing a way of allaying his worries. It is also a form of physiotherapy for him as the repeated gesture of creating lines back and forth seems to relieve tension and stiffness in his damaged arm.



This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #116.

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