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Artist promotes peace on sand

Babu ensures his message will not fall on stony ground

Artist promotes peace on sand
Sand artist Babu Edakkunni working on Mahatma Gandhi
Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

September 30, 2011

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An artist in New Delhi is trying to promote peace and harmony in his own unique way. Babu Edakkunni, a sand artist from the southern Indian state of Kerala, says he is producing the biggest portrait of Mahatma Gandhi ever made -- in sand on canvass. “I want people in India and around the world to follow the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and shun violence,” Edakkunni said while carefully applying sand to the portrait. He is not bothered by the hustle bustle going around him as people gather to see his art. He smiles patiently and replies to everyone who asks him anything about his work. “I feel bad when I see pain and agony around me. So, I decided to do Gandhi’s portrait as I wanted to promote his message of love and peace,” he said, still engrossed in applying sand to the independence leader’s right ear. Edakkunni has collected 30 types of sand from more than a dozen places in India and abroad to do the portrait. All these places, including New Delhi, Porbandar, Kerala, South Africa and the UK, are connected to Gandhi and his life. The 45-year-old artist began the portrait on September 21 at the India Gate in New Delhi. The project is titled “Gandhi resurrects.” The portrait, measuring 9.1 meters by 7.3 meters, is due to be completed on October 2, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth. The whole work of art is eco-friendly and no artificial colors are being used. “Nobody else has created a portrait like this in the history of art and it is being made using one of the most natural sources available -- different colored sand,” he said. Edakkunni applies some adhesive on the canvass and then slowly sprinkles sand on it. He said he has to be very careful selecting the color of the sand as the face has different shades. “Some places are dark and others light. The eyes were the most difficult part to get right,” he said. Edakkunni hopes his portrait will be considered for the Guinness Book of World Records. “We have contacted officials inquiring about a record for the biggest sand portrait ever made,” he said. The artist said the project is his own personal initiative and he is planning to auction off the artwork for charity once it is completed. Edakkunni studied art at the School of Fine Arts in Thrrissur, Kerala. He later served on the National Council for Cultural Arts and Heritage in Qatar, where he began experimenting with sand as an art medium. Edakkunni became a fully-fledged sand artist ten years ago. The first portrait he created was of the Emir of Qatar H.H. Sheikh Muhhammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, for which he collected sand from various parts of Qatar. His other notable works include portraits of former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the former president of Singapore S.R. Nathan, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha and the Hindu deity Lord Krishna. Edakkunni now travels to many places, including Dubai and Singapore, to showcase his work. Related links: Artist captures Passion of Christ
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