In India, machines are preferred to manmade craft (Feature with images)February 7th, 2010 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS
By Shweta Srinivasan
Porbandar (Gujarat), Feb 7 (IANS) Leaving his family’s tradition of carving idols of Lord Jagannath, Manmohan Mahapatra turned to the sands at Orissa’s beaches 30 years ago. Now known the world over for his magnificent sand creations, he says it’s a struggle to promote the art in India where “machines are preferred”.
A pioneer of sand sculptures in India, Mahapatra feels sand art, which is still in its “nascent stages” in the country despite being around for decades, needs a lot more attention.
“The interest in handicrafts is dwindling. People and investors, whether government or private, don’t care for the work of the hand when they can get something from a machine cheaper,” Mahapatra told IANS in an interview.
He received his first honour when he was recognised as Asia’s first sand sculptor in 1994 at the World Sand Sculpture Championship in Canada. Since then there has been no looking back and he has participated in various events in India and abroad, replicating intricate motifs and designs.
According to Mahapatra, he shares a “spiritual connect” with the sands on beaches like an artist must have with his muse, even though he knows his creations are impermanent.
“I don’t expect my structures to remain. I sell my talent, not my work. Why should one attempt to preserve it…that’s defeating the purpose of the sands. What I create, the waves destroy…it’s a game we play. If sometimes the water spares them, I destroy them myself,” Mahapatra said.
Teaching the skill to his students, at the one of its kind Sand Art Research and Development Institute (SARDI) in Puri which he founded, Mahapatra, who is in his early 40s, also teaches them that sand art is not permanent.
“I actually teach to break, not create,” he says with a smile.
“Any work in the sand cannot remain. That’s partly why I love it…it’s a challenge for me to create something better each time.”
He is often invited by various coastal state governments and even Rajasthan to teach and promote sand art via workshops and events. He has created impressions of Jain architecture, of the Buddha, not to mention Lord Jagannath whom he refers to as “a guiding force and friend”.
His latest venture is his collaboration with Gujarat Tourism in this ancient port town which is also the birth place of the father of the nation.
On the serene beach of Chowpatti here, Mahapatra raised the golden sands to a height of 24 feet to recreate Mahatma Gandhi’s birth place Kirti Mandir.
He toiled for around three days with a couple of assistants and with passionate ease also carved out a life-size Gandhi seated atop the structure - leaving spectators awestruck and clicking away with their cameras.
The artist has not approached the government to promote the art which he feels is still “not widely recognised”.
“It (sand art) cannot be based just on commerce. I am doing my bit to transfer this art to those who show an interest or promise. Apart from the one-year course at SARDI, I also conduct workshops independently,” he said.
“Sand art in India is just at the beginning and the journey is very long.”
(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: 40s, art research, defeating the purpose, gujarat, handicrafts, honour, india machines, lord jagannath, manmohan, motifs, muse, orissa, puri, research and development, sand art, sand sculptor, sand sculpture, sand sculptures, sardi, srinivasan