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Sculptures evoke curiosity at Chennai Book Fair

At stall 220 at the Chennai Book Fair, visitors stare silently at the sculpture on display. Some pay no attention. Others touch it. A few walk to the publishers to ask for the meaning.

Published: 26th February 2021 06:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th February 2021 06:38 AM   |  A+A-

44th edition of the annual Chennai Book Fair at YMCA grounds in Nandanam. (Photo | R Satish Babu, EPS)

44th edition of the annual Chennai Book Fair at YMCA grounds in Nandanam. (Photo | R Satish Babu, EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: At stall 220 at the Chennai Book Fair, visitors stare silently at the sculpture on display. Some pay no attention. Others touch it. A few walk to the publishers to ask for the meaning. The ‘Thadagam’ publication’s stall features artist Rohini Mani’s sculpture of ‘Hassan’, a character from a Tamil translation of the French book ‘Le mariage de plaisir’, who suffers from internalised racism.

The aim is to make art accessible, allowing visitors to touch, feel and discuss rather than stare silently, like in a gallery. The sculpture was commissioned by the publication to create a focal point to the book stall paves the way for conversations with visitors.

The sculpture depicts a downcast Hassan, kneeling in prayer and the skin from his chest torn in shreds to reveal a hollow. However, it is difficult to say where Hassan ends and the artist Rohini begins. Physically, the sculpture has two pairs of hands, one holding the other as if in comfort. The additional pair of hands is perceived to be Rohini’s.

“I read the book and decided that I wanted the sculpture to be Hassan’s because I could also draw from my own experiences of being discriminated against for being dark-skinned. Here, the skin near Hassan’s chest is torn because I wanted to say that it’s only physical and inside the shell (the body) is what people should actually see,” said Rohini.

She has worked with other publications in the past, creating sculptures and works of art that connect the books on display, and also stand out on their own as an extension of the artist herself. Elsewhere, in stall 150 of  ‘Silai’, busts of Dravidian icons Periyar, Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa, Subramaniya Bharathiyar and also Ambedkar occupy the shelves. The busts are priced between Rs 800 and Rs 4,800.

“While Periyar is always in demand, visitors ask for Subramaniya Bharathiyar and also for customised busts of family members or their favourite icons,” said Arun Titan, founder of Silai.



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