The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Worship the deity with Hope In A Pocket
- Polish tribute to Deese Durga

A pair of deep blue jeans. From its pocket rises a golden sun, a silver moon and an Om symbol while the divine Third Eye keeps vigil on another side. This is Tomek Kawiak’s Pocket Durga. Or what he calls his L’espoir dans la Poche (Hope In A Pocket). The Polish sculptor’s “token of respect” to Durga puja is on view at this year’s Santosh Mitra Square pandal.

“I came to know about the Hindu ritual during my trip to Khajuraho in 2000,” says the 59-year-old man, living in Grasse, in the French Riviera, who also has a studio in Italy. The sculptor sees Durga as “the victor over demons and the harbinger of peace”. She is also “Prakriti or Mother Nature” and “Sakti or fountain of energy”. The blue hue of the jeans is the “colour and symbol of the Braman-Jotpur” (Brahma, “the Absolute Totality”), says the sculptor, who recently held an exhibition on hats at New York in commemoration of September 11.

The project, which took seed at Khajuraho, propelled his next visit to India in October 2001. By then, he had seen a film on TV back home, through which he was introduced to the work of Calcutta artisan Alok Sen. “I like working in collaboration with local artisans — potters, stone-carvers, iron casters,” he explains. So he got in touch with the veteran Kumartuli artist.

The first conversation over telephone was not effective communication because of a language divide.

So when he landed at Sen’s door, he had with him a mini model of Hope In A Pocket as well as a translator.

Recalling the first meeting, Sen says: “Tomek was so full of energy that he was ready to start right away.”

An 11-foot rendition of the sculpture was planned in clay and straw, which Sen would produce at his Sovabazar studio.

The next morning, a kathamo pujo (ceremonie d’initiation, or initiation ceremony, to Kawiak) was planned. “There was so much activity from the morning. I had with me Philippe Nahoun, film director for the French channel Arte TV, who was recording the entire project on camera,” laughs Kawiak, speaking over phone from Paris.

Adds Sen: “Tomek seemed to know about kathamo pujo. He had brought over flowers, incense sticks and sweets. He was the priest himself and said his prayers in French. Then alcohol was sprinkled all around as he raised a toast.”

The local boys too had a feast. Prasad was distributed among them along with key rings, while the production unit settled down to a daal-bhaat-maachh lunch on the studio floor.

Kawiak is excited that the life-size Hope In A Pocket will be exhibited at a pandal beside the “Deese (goddess) Durga”. “Addressing the man on the street is more challenging than producing museum pieces,” he points out.

He wants people to put “offerings” in the pocket. There are plans to put up a notice to this effect at the pandal — “You have the right to touch my sculpture and put offerings in the pocket”. What kind of offerings does he have in mind' “Flowers and personal objects,” is his response.

A bronze replica of the sculture has also been prepared. He hopes to hold a photo-film-painting show on his puja specials (He has also created a Cosmic Kali) at the Academy of Fine Arts. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations has been approached, through the Indian Embassy in Paris, to organise a series of exhibitions across the country.

As for Puja 2002, Kawiak is “itching to be back” to see his dream sculpture in the “city that lives only in the light”. He is scheduled to reach on Ashtami or Nabami. Till then, Hope In A Pocket waits for finishing touches from his brush.

After the four days, says Kawiak, the sculpture is to be immersed in the river “along with the other statues.” “After all, in India, art and religion go hand in hand and the earth of the sculpture must return to the earth...” his voice trails off.

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