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Carving a niche

Using just a toilet soap, Goka Rama Swamy specialises in the rare art of soap sculpture by carving out excellent works of art.

Kaadedi kavitakanarham kukkapilla, sabbu billa, aggi pulla... (Nothing is inappropriate for a poem - a puppy, a bar of soap or a matchstick).



CURIOUS CURIOS: Shapes and figures find the pride of place.

SO SAID Sri Sri, one of the greatest poets the `Telugu-nadu' has ever seen. Deriving inspiration from this, Narsapet-based Goka Rama Swamy moulded the source to suit his context and area of interest. Today, Rama Swamy made the widely-used-but-most-neglected-and-easily-forgotten `sabbu billa' (soap-bar) an apt medium to craft beautiful art pieces.



JAI BOLO: Invoking Ganesha is auspicious for any artist.

"It all started as an experiment at a Scouts camp 15 years ago - as a Scouts teacher, I was required to carry a kit containing basic things essential at a camp field (like soap, towel, a small knife, etc). Also being a drawing teacher, my attention was drawn to the name of the soap carved on it. Using it as the base, and a blade as my tool, I carved out the Scouts' emblem. My commander appreciated it and that was it! There was no looking back," says Rama Swamy.

Using something as insignificant as a soap to make beautiful pieces of art is unique to the artiste. "I found it quite interesting because nobody ever thought about it. And, why should I stick to what others do," he asks. The down-to-earth artiste carves not just human faces and animals but also picks up socially relevant themes to drive home messages against certain evils like smoking and alcohol/drug consumption as a subject.



SITTING STILL: Soap sculpture makes Nandi more interesting.

Whether it is Ganesha or Nandi, a chimpanzee or a hungry man, personalities like Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lenin and I.K. Gujral, each piece attains a magical charm in his hands. But, how does he go about the carving? "First, I choose the colour of the soap bar depending on the subject I have on mind (and also on the colour of the person/ animal/ things), make a plan mentally and start carving. And, since I cannot dedicate hours and days together, one piece takes from two hours to 20 days depending on the detailing," says the soap sculptor.



DELICATE DETAILING: I.K. Gujral.

The most memorable moment for the 48-year-old artiste is the time when he was appreciated by then Prime Minister I.K. Gujral as Rama Swamy personally handed him his `piece of art'. "But for my wife (and friends), I would not have been able to reach this far - her patience to put up with all the dirt while I work was all I could ask for. If she didn't encourage me, my craving for the art would have been nipped in the bud," he says, full of admiration for his wife. "And then, there were those agonising moments to overcome when a carving which took me about 20 days to complete just slipped and fell off somebody's hands," he adds.



DOWN TO EARTH: Goka Rama Swamy.

"I cannot carve the same thing again, and I cannot bring myself to carve things on request. I should be inspired to do it," says the non-commercial artiste. If you are interested in what this teacher-cum-sculptor specialises in, you could contact him at gora@yahoo.com, gora@rediffmail.com.

SHANTI NANISETTI

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