The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Friday, October 24, 2014


India's effigy sculptors turn to human memorial statues
Third generation Indian statue maker Benzony Sequeira working on an unfinished statue of Goddess Gauri at the Sequeira brothers' home and workshop in Small Giriz, some 70 kms north of Mumbai. For when a photograph is not enough, the Sequeiras -- a third-generation family of religious effigy makers -- operate a successful sideline to bereaved relatives who want a three-dimensional tribute to their lost loved ones. Using old photographs to capture a likeness, the statues and busts are made of wood or fibreglass, coloured with paint and completed with realistic glass eyes. AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE.
SMALL GIRIZ (AFP).- In a busy sculpture workshop in west India, there is one unfamiliar face alongside the images of divine figures such as Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Hindu goddess Parvati.

This is Ivy, the late beloved wife of 82-year-old Peter Pereira, and she is being commemorated in a life-size bust. The fibreglass figure is the latest example of a growing trend: commissioning memorial sculptures of the dead.

For when a photograph is not enough, the Sequeiras -- a third-generation family of religious effigy makers -- operate a successful sideline to bereaved relatives who want a three-dimensional tribute to their lost loved ones.

Using old photographs to capture a likeness, the statues and busts are made of wood or fibreglass, coloured with paint and completed with realistic glass eyes. In Ivy's case, they plan to finish the look with spectacles.

"I will feel she is still here because of the statue," said bereft Pereira, a retired cinematographer who will keep the bust in his Mumbai apartment to remember Ivy, who died aged 77 almost four years ago.

"Some people don't like to remember people who have died and gone, but not me," said the widower. He has even commissioned a second marble-effect bust, for the garden of another family home.

The Sequeira business is based north of Mumbai in Small Giriz village, nestled in the coconut trees and banana plantations of Vasai, once a stronghold of Portuguese colonials who brought with them Catholicism and carpentry skills.

The family name itself echoes the Portuguese connection, and Benzoni Sequeira says that it was his grandfather who started the religious woodcarving business in 1920.

After several decades of producing altars and effigies, they completed their first personal memorial about 20 years ago, and demand has surged in recent times.

"It was one or two orders, but now it's continuous," Benzoni told AFP.

The Sequeiras' work draws comparisons to the Madame Tussauds waxwork museum in London, but Benzoni believes he has a far more difficult challenge in creating a convincing lookalike.

"They get all the photographs they need from every angle, they get all the measurements they need," he said. "Normally our clients provide only an old black and white photograph. There's a lot of trial and error."

Lifelong sculptors
Relatives of the late Andrew Machado, a dairy farmer, commissioned the Sequeiras to complete a full-length statue that now stands proudly at the entrance to his family home in Vasai.

The figure has garlands around his neck and is wearing a distinctive outfit of just shorts and a simple shirt.

"We didn't want any drapery, it's just like the clothes he would wear. We wanted it to feel like real-life," said his 75-year-old widow Santan.

The process begins with a clay modelling, checked several times by a family member to ensure the likeness.

It is then recreated in wood, costing 85,000 rupees ($1,600) for a bust, or in fibreglass for a cheaper 50,000 rupees.

"We have to have a lot of patience. It's not a fast-paced job," said Benzoni's older brother Mingleshwar in their workshop, where body parts lie around like the limbs of giant dolls.

The brothers have carved wood since they were youngsters, learning from their father Renold and uncle Roque, a mustachioed 71-year-old who still sits carving on the porch steps despite the loss of sight in one eye.

Renold, 68, also remains an active woodworker and a keen amateur astronomer, especially proud of his self-made celestial globe that shows the position of constellations in the sky.

Building a good local reputation, the Sequeiras don't advertise: word-of-mouth has helped their commissions to increase both at home and abroad.

In their house sit two dozen crucifixes, with flashing red bulbs depicting dripping blood, which are destined for the Middle East.

A full-size sari-clad woman in the hallway is to be shipped to an Indian-run hotel in Britain.

The family's gilding work has also won them accolades: their painstaking restoration of Mumbai's 140-year-old Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum helped it win a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award in 2005 for cultural heritage conservation.

"Our work is very special. We're very satisfied at the end of the day," said Benzoni.

The business came from humble beginnings. In their grandfather Michael's youth, the local church was so poor that it had to borrow statues of Jesus and Mary from another parish on Good Friday.

The Easter service was held early in order to return the effigies to the lending church for the feast day -- a situation that spurred Michael to start making his own religious figures.

"He did the face of Jesus, it's still in the church. Then slowly he did other statues and altars," said Mingleshwar.

The Sequeiras say they have planned for years to make their own sculptural memorial to Michael, the founder of the family business, but they are always too busy doing client work.

"We have a saying: a carpenter doesn't have a bench in his house," said Benzoni with a laugh.

rob/bgs/dwa


© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse





Today's News

November 5, 2012

Zentrum Paul Klee brings together 85 depictions of angels in Klee's work for new exhibition

Moretti Fine Art shows fine works by Italian masters in Shanghai for the first time

Property from a distinguished private collection highlights Christie's Sales of Antiquities and Old Masters Paintings

First Bay Area museum overview of Jasper Johns's work in 35 years opens at SFMOMA

Tate announces new acquisitions of modern and contemporary African art and related programme

Exhibition of new work by celebrated British artist Phyllida Barlow opens at Hauser & Wirth in New York

New Works: Paintings by Carole Bayer Sager on view at William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica

Installation at The Royal Ontario Museum highlights objects that are BIG

Leading auction house Saffronart announces first sale by an Indian auction house of Pakistani art

China's painful past displayed under political shadow in businessman Fan Jianchuan's six museums

RSL's Dec. 1 auction features Allen Liffman lifetime collection of black Americana

Third solo show for the Scottish artist John Byrne opens at The Fine Art Society in London

A solo exhibition of Syrian artist Khaled Takreti opens at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai

India's effigy sculptors turn to human memorial statues

Exhibition brings together work by a group of artists who have travelled to and spent time in the Galápagos

Sharon Lockhart re-animates the extraordinary work of Israeli dance composer and textile artist Noa Eshkol

Museum of Glass presents Ray Turner: Population, exhibition of portraits on glass

Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living hosts acclaimed art collection from Mark Humphrey

Comprehensive exhibition of Azerbaijani contemporary art opens at me Collectors Room Berlin

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Image of a Christ without a beard, short hair and wearing a toga unearthed in Spain

2.- Giant mosaic unearthed in mysterious tomb in Amphipolis in northern Macedonia

3.- Bonhams sale of 18th century French decorative arts to benefit Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

4.- Paris flustered by erection of 'sex-toy' sculpture; Paul McCarthy slapped by a passer-by

5.- High art or vile pornography? Marquis de Sade explored in Orsay museum exhibition

6.- 'Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection' opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

7.- Greek culture minister says Elgin Marbles return a matter of 'global heritage'

8.- Vandals deflate Paris 'sex-toy' sculpture by American artist Paul McCarthy after outrage

9.- Exhibition at National Gallery in London explores Rembrandt's final years of painting

10.- 'Hans Memling: A Flemish Renaissance' opens at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez - Marketing: Carla Gutiérrez
Special Contributor: Liz Gangemi - Special Advisor: Carlos Amador
Contributing Editor: Carolina Farias

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemaria.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site