Meeting the Ganesh Idol Sculptors of Hollywood

Creating a Ganesh idol is a family trade in the Hollywood slum in Ahmedabad, India. We met some of the artists.

Hollywood is the name of a 150-year-old slum in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. But I didn’t visit a slum for the sake of seeing what a slum in India looks like. Of the many times, we had passed by, one thing always got my attention: the giant statues of the Ganesh idol.

The artisans here work every day of the week building them: Gods, Deities, popular figures like Gandhi. It’s a family trade and a skill they will pass on to the next generation. I wanted to see it and know more about it, but knew I would never do it without their consent.

The family of artisans in Hollywood, Ahmedabad | Creating a Ganesh idol is a family trade in the Hollywood slum in Ahmedabad, India. We met some of the artists.

The Family of Artisans

These idols are shipped and sold everywhere in India for temples, for festivals or just for private clients. They keep making them, not to fulfill a pending order, but because people will always look to buy one (or more) and they know this is the place to go to.

As we approached the three men working we asked if we were given permission to photograph their work process and the art pieces. They kindly invited us in and a few seconds later we were surrounded by the family’s children wanting to pose for the pictures — some of the images that we share here of the (already) beautiful statues are enriched by bright eyes and big smiles. At every click, they asked us to see the result.

Mixing the coconut coir fibers with the plaster to build the Ganesh idol | Creating a Ganesh idol is a family trade in the Hollywood slum in Ahmedabad, India. We met some of the artists.

Mixing the coconut coir fibers with the plaster

The craftsmen showed us how it’s done: they pour into a mold a mix of plaster with the coir fibers from the coconut shells that the women have carefully been sorting out in big piles. The biggest idol that we saw there was around three feet high and takes about one hour and a half to complete — their work is both very fast and highly skilled.

Building a Ganesh idol in the Hollywood slum, Ahmedabad, India | Creating a Ganesh idol is a family trade in the Hollywood slum in Ahmedabad, India. We met some of the artists.

Building a Ganesh idol

At this time of year, they are preparing these statues for the ten days of Ganesh Chaturthi – the Hindu festival that celebrates the rebirth of Lord Ganesh and that this year (2014) starts on the 29th of August and ends on the 8th of September with the celebrations of Ananta Chaturdasi. I never found the courage to ask them how much they sell the idols for, but I hope it’s a fair price for their art.

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