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Enter the Sandman

Sand artist Narayan Sahu sees his works’ limited life span as the essence of their beauty.

Written by Rushil Dutta |
October 17, 2013 5:21:14 am

Narayan Sahu learned the nuances of sculpturing at his grandfather’s feet. His grandfather was a stone sculptor who supported his family through projects commissioned to him by temples in Borigaon,their village in Orissa. “My grandfather always told me that an artist’s life is one of struggle and perseverance and the only way one could establish himself or herself as an artist is by creating something unique,” says Sahu,who did not attend any art school.

Now stationed in the city,making replicas of the eight wonders of the world at Phoenix Marketcity,Sahu puts his love for the art simply,“I was consumed by sand sculpturing.”

Going back in history to when sand-art began,Sahu shares that as per folklore it all started with a saint called Dasiya Bauri. “He wasn’t allowed admission into the Jagannath Temple because he belonged to a lower class. It is said that in subtle retaliation,Bauri made a sand statue of lord Jagannath on the beach — the first ever — and began worshipping it. That makes him the father of Indian sand art,” he says.

Sahu also attributes the growth of the art form to Sudarshan Patnaik,the stalwart in Indian sand art. In retrospect,Sahu recollects his first trysts with the art form. “The beach was about 15 kms away from where I stayed. So whenever we visited the beach,we would compulsorily make something out of sand,be it a statue or a structure,” says Sahu.

It is only after 2005 that sand art festivals picked up in India,Sahu says. “Since then,I have been participating in a lot of festivals. The most notable one is the annual Goa Sand Art Festival and even the Orissa Tourism board organises international sand art festivals,” says Sahu,adding that the festivals are a source of sustenance for sand artists.

“These festivals give away cash prizes to those who win,and even those who don’t win get paid for the time they’ve spent working on their respective artwork,” says Sahu. The rising consciousness about sand art also earns artists like Sahu commissioned projects like the one at Phoenix Marketcity.

Events such as these allow the audience to witness the laborious creative process. There are two sand packing techniques that artists employ,one is a soft packing of sand and the other is hard packing. Sahu elucidates both processes with examples: “Of the eight wonders,two — The Great Wall of China and the Pyramids — are ready. Both were prepared using the soft packing technique,which as the name suggests,is the sculpturing of soft sand with some moisture in it. Soft packing projects usually consume up to eight hours.”

He also explains the hard-packing technique. “Sand is filled into mould and controlled streams of water are allowed to pass through it. Then the sand is allowed to settle,during which its particles interlock; the sand solidifies and takes the form of the mould.” Once the basic structure has been readied,further detailing shall be chiselled onto the blocks of concrete sand.

On how it feels to be an artist whose works have such a short life span,Sahu says,“The beauty and worth of these art works lie in their short life. They cannot be preserved and hence,can never become stale. They must be beheld while they last and can be perpetuated only in photographs. That apart,the art form is rare. People come to witness rarity.”

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