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Strokes of concern

To help tsunami-victims and revive the art of traditional fish craft, artist E. Amalore is selling reproductions of two of his sketches


BOATS, NETS and fisher folk come alive under his pencil. Waves look greyer and angrier in some sketches, while in others, they foam almost lazily around a catamaran being dragged to the shore.

Chennai-based artist E. Amalore has been sketching seascapes for almost 22 years now, and his execution of water, wave, froth and movement, strained sinews of a fisherman drawing a net back on to his boat, all encapsulate a wonderful marine flavour.

Starting off as a mechanical engineer, moving on to machine design and then travelling the coasts of South East Asia as the official sketch-artist and photographer for the FOA, United Nations, Amalore has let his hobby happily take over his academic qualifications. While documenting traditional aquatic occupations, his sketches highlight every detail of the fishing boats.

Deeply disturbed

The strength of the sails billowing in the wind, the tension in the ropes that hold the wood together in the most traditional boats — everything stands out clearly enough to be used for academic study or pure visual pleasure. But it is the absolute thrill of indulging in a delightful obsession that makes Amalore's artwork this precise. Unlike most drawings of the sea, Amalore's art does not lend the sea a looming character. The waves look like the fisherman's ally, and seem to lash about the boats playfully. He says he cannot now bring himself to sketch the darkness of the ocean, and the destruction it wrecks on life. But now, Amalore is deeply disturbed as he sees wooden hulls of broken boats "sticking up like corpses in the sand."

"I don't like to draw or photograph depression... The sea did what it did, yes. But we must not drown ourselves further in misery now," he says. "In the recent catastrophe, so many traditional boats have suffered damage."He worries that no one will bother putting these ingenious, eco-friendly boats together, and the government would also, too easily, provide the fishermen with mass-manufactured fibre glass boats. "Who rebuilds a heritage building?" he says, "It might be easy to make these fibre glass boats, but they have a low lifespan, after which they're just dumped on the shore. And if some environment support groups complain about that, the owners will just dump them in the sea... They'll lie there, polluting the sea bed." Not paranoid without reason, Amalore explains how nets swung into the sea are ripped into shreds when they get stuck in the dumped boats. "And fish that are already caught in the net just remain that way till they die — this horrible phenomenon of `ghost fishing' is prevalent all over the world," he says.

He's almost losing sleep over the fact that traditional boats such as Theppa, Naava and gill boats, which were already dwindling in number and usage, will now become extinct. To lend a helping hand to the tsunami-victims and to revive the art of traditional fish craft, Amalore is selling reproductions of two of his sketches — one of a Sri Lankan boat and the other of fishermen in Adiramapattinam (near Nagapattinam). They will be sold at Rs. 1000, and the proceeds would go towards relief for the victims. Amalore can be contacted on 93827-04822.

ROHINI MOHAN

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