Meeting the Ganesh idol sculptors at Ahmedabad’s Hollywood slum
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, there was one thing that always got my attention: the giant statues of the Ganesh idol.
The artisans here work every day of the week, building them: Gods, Deities, famous 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.
These idols are shipped and sold everywhere in India for temples, 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.
As we approached the three men working, we asked if we had permission to photograph their work process and the art pieces. They kindly invited us in. A few seconds later, we were surrounded by the family’s children wanting to pose for the pictures. Their bright eyes and big smiles enrich some of the images we share here of the (already) beautiful statues. At every click, they asked us to see the result.
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 sorted out in big piles.
The biggest idol that we saw there was around three feet high and took about one hour and a half to complete — their work is both swift and highly skilled.
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.