The Telegraph
Thursday , January 23 , 2014
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Artist carves ideas on wood

Borjhar, Jan. 22: Daily wage earner Laban Das has found a unique way to spend his evenings. With his hammer and chisel, Das spends his free time carving intricate designs — depicting society’s burning issues — on tree stumps.

The 30-year-old part-time artist — who lives in Haropara, a nondescript hamlet in Kamrup district, about 36km from Guwahati — depicts social issues like ethnic violence, gender inequality, dowry system, witch-hunting and the plight of the farmers through his carvings.

“Illiteracy is a curse that I have to live with, and because of that I am unable to express my thoughts in words or writing. But I love nature and one day when I was roaming around in a forest, I saw a tree stump and felt inclined to express my thoughts about social issues on it. That was it and I could not refuse the call of creation on wood,” Das told this correspondent.

Surprisingly, Das is a self-taught artist. “It is through sheer interest and the will to express myself that I took this up in 2002,” he said.

One of Das’s creations depicts an elderly couple tied to a tree after being accused of practising witchcraft. “On the right side of the woodwork, I have carved a rocket launcher and a computer to show the changes society has undergone and that superstitions have no place in society today,” he said. “Every time I come across such ills that plague people, I invariably turn to my chisel to vent my thoughts.”

Another sculpture depicts the growing incidence of farmer suicides. “Here, I have engraved a farmer hanging himself under the Tricolour. The beleaguered farmer is shown to have placed his plough, his prized possession, under the Tricolour before taking his life. I feel the woes of the farmers have to be addressed if society has to progress,” Das said.

The wage earner scouts for jobs daily to buy wood for his carvings. “I make about Rs 8,000 every month from daily errands. Half my income is spent on buying tree stumps (one costs Rs 1,000) from my friends at Muduki (under Palasbari in Kamrup), who collect the abandoned wood from the forests. I have to support my family with the rest,” Das said.

So far, Das has created 150 artworks, having exhibited them in expositions from time to time. “I am yet to sell any of my tree-stump carvings. But I have sold objects such as rhinos, elephants and other animals that I also make,” he said.

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