Sculpting a livelihood

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Clay sculptor Hussain M D, born in a Muslim family, sells statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in the hope of freeing himself from the clutches of debt. Father of five girls

Published: 05th March 2012 11:58 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:29 PM   |  A+A-


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Clay sculptor Hussain M D, born in a Muslim family, sells statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in the hope of freeing himself from the clutches of debt. Father of five girls and two boys, he knew that it was a hard row to hoe when he set out to travel all over the southern parts of the country making and selling clay sculptures.

Hussain found his forte by adapting the modelling technique to offer figurines that could be made out of melting any metal brought to him. At every stopover, the artist is easily a crowd-puller with people queuing up to remould old metal artifacts.

This forty five-year-old modeller, hailing from the small town of Mehdipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, learnt the art of clay sculpting at the age of eighteen. One of his friends told him about a place near Charminar in Hyderabad, where he could master the art. When he gained expertise, he decided to start a business of his own.

“I knew that Hyderabad was not the right place for this as there were many who were into making sculptures. And I moved further south to Kerala,” says Hussain. For the past 30 years, clay sculpturing has been his bread and butter.

He started selling his models at Palakkad and travelled to other districts like Thrissur and Kochi and is now camping in Thiruvananthapuram for the last four months. He makes himself comfortable near temples or tea stalls and was lately spotted near Thycaud Sastha temple. His seventeen-year-old daughter Jareena Begum accompanies Hussain, helping her father make the sculptures. She attended school till ninth grade, but had to stop due to financial crisis. “But, instead of wiling away time, she made up her mind to learn the art and be of some help to me,” says Hussain.

“Marrying off my four daughters incurred me a debt of lakhs of rupees. And this business is what I am pinning my hopes on,” he says.

For a day’s work the father and daughter set off at eight in the morning carrying a sack of clay, an aluminium box, moulds and paints. To create a figure, Hussain opens up the aluminium box and spreads the clay in it after which the mould is placed on it and covered with more clay. Using a flat iron, the clay is pressed hard to the mould and removed after a while. By then the mould comes out and the same is removed. Melted metal is poured over the model. Hussain allows it to cool, takes it up and clears away the remnants. For a better finishing he paints it gold or silver.

Customers can take any metal object of their choice and get it re-moulded into a figurine of their choice. People who want their Lord Ganesha to be painted silver or Goddess Lakshmi in gold can put in these specifications beforehand. The final product costs between ` 100 to ` 600, depending on the size.

Hussain’s family members are not too happy about him making the models of Hindu Gods since it goes against the basic tenets of their religion. But as this is the only means for clearing his debt, he continues to do it. “The day when I am done with my liabilities, I wish to put an end to this wandering,” says Hussain.


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