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Queen of sand art

By R Murali

It is strongly believed that successful people do what unsuccessful people can’t.  The gap between achievers and non-achievers is beyond one’s imagination. To dream big and make it come true, calls for perseverance.

How many of us remember the sandcastles that we used to make as kids? Tough is not it? Talk to our own Mysore Nanjundaswamy Gowri about sand art, she can talk to you for ages without a fret. Right from her early days when she used to play in the sand to what she is now, she can take you down the memory lane with anecdotes.

One of the few sand artists that the country has seen over the years, Gowri’s journey since she started sand sculpting way back in 2011 has been momentous. Formative years at St Joseph’s School at Bannimantap and CFTRI School couldn’t have been better. After a diploma in mechanical engineering, her father wanted Gowri to pursue BE with future in sight. Though reluctant, Gowri joined engineering before calling it quits after three years. Her career started taking shape after she started to pursue a degree in Bachelor in Fine Arts (BFA) and later MFA.

While in school, Gowri knew what her priorities were. Her liking for drawing, sketching, painting and clay modelling was perceptible. “I used to surf the internet when I came across sand sculptures made abroad. It was amazing. I also watched videos on sand sculpture and started my stint,” she sets the tone conversation.

Initially, Nanjundaswamy was against his daughter pursuing sand art for obvious reasons. He thought Gowri would be better placed as an engineer or a doctor. On the other side, youngster’s sand sculpture of Lord Shiva at Suttur in 2011 was so good that appreciation started pouring in from all quarters. Nanjundaswamy, who was not so keen in his daughter’s sand art till then, realised what Gowri was destined to.

What is striking about Gowri’s monumental artwork is her penchant to be different in her approach. In less than nine years, that she has exhibited her talent in more 40 places in India is a testimony to her extraordinaire.

Her elder sister M N Neelambika, who is an MBA graduate, lends rock-solid support to Gowri. She handles the colouring part of the sculptures.

Gowri strongly believes in making the world understand what sand art is. To give more wings to her creative thoughts, she started Mysore Sand Sculpture Museum in the heritage city in 2014.  The museum is a sight to behold what with amazing sand sculptures that have a message on peace, culture, wildlife and environment.

On a philosophical note, Gowri avers, “There is nothing permanent in this materialistic world. Our emotions keep changing. A piece of good art can really rejuvenate our minds…”

Success begets success. It is so true in Gowri’s case. What started as a hobby has blossomed into a creative world of its own where Gowri is standing tall with none to match her.


How much of your childhood do you remember?

Backyard sandpit used to be our playground. I remember lots of frog hole tunnels and Shivalinga idols made with the sand black clay found in them.

 What was your parents’ influence during the formative years?

Most parents want their child to become a decent survivor as a doctor or an engineer and it’s a reputed source of living. My father used to insist that artists or their art has no value or has no future and as a common man, it is very difficult to take it up as a profession. “It’s only for wealthy people.” But after my first work of sand art of Shiva came in newspapers for the first time, he commented, ‘Art has chosen you to show the people the value of art.’

Schooling and college…Did you enjoy it?

For me, becoming an artist was my childhood dream and I used to get first prize in drawing every time. I finished my diploma in mechanical engineering and was asked to pursue BE.I found c-programming very pale and opted out. Finally, I completed a Masters in Fine Arts where I learnt the theory of art.

When did you start making sand sculptures? What was the inspiration behind it?

For the first time, I did sand art of Lord Shiva at Suttur in 2011. Dad was so impressed, he allowed me to pursue my dream.  Sand art is an art which is done by all in their childhood. In fact, it’s kids’ favourite and it is the best way to show or educate them.

How many hours does one need to practise to learn the nuances of sand art?

It takes hours and days of work, to think, imagine, position, compose and finally replicate the thoughts in the sand. It depends on the places, water availability, size of the place, changes in weather conditions.

Did you professionally learn sand sculpting art? What are the skills and techniques required for sand sculpting?

Initially, I used to browse the internet to learn the techniques. When I attended the international sand art fest organised in Orissa, many artists were using their own techniques to develop their work of art. Every sculpture teaches a new technique, it depends on the number of sculptures that one works on to make it perfect.

 When did you have the dream of creating a sand museum?

That the art has given me so much, I always thought a sand museum would be apt in the heritage city. The gallery of sand art could be a point where those interested in the art could have a glance. I could not have chosen a better place than Mysuru.

Which is your favourite sand sculpture?

I admire all the sculptures which I do as every sculpture takes its own time and effort.

How has the museum structure been built?

As sand is an eco-friendly medium, the sand sculpture at the sand museum is created within an open space with a poly sheet covering for the rains and surrounded with plants within a 10000 sqft garden
Is sand art popular in India and elsewhere?

It is a popular medium and a very ancient medium too. It is a temporary form of art and it isn’t preserved or carried over by the generations. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Parvathi did the sculpture of Ganesh with her sweat in the sand and gave life to it. Thus sand art is the most ancient work of art carried from the times immemorial.

Any awards and recognition?

I have been given certificates at all 50 events where I have been felicitated by Tirupathi Tirumala Devastanams, Government of Karnataka, Rotary Club, Lions Club.

Have you had a chance to promote your sand sculptures at a global level?

I had an opportunity to show my work of art at 1) King Abdul Aziz camel festival, 2) Camera, art and colours expo, 3) Coffee and chocolate expo, 4) Art and cultural event ‘Janadriyyah’.

Is there any message that you give out to society through artworks? 

As a responsible citizen of India, it’s the responsibility of every individual to respect or to restore our history, values and culture which our ancestors have been following. As art is one of the languages, kindly respect and restore it when you get an opportunity.

How is Gowri as a person? What has the art taught you? 

Whenever people tell me, it is god’s gift, I get inspired and it is my duty to show the world what art really is. Art is symbolic, figurative means of education where people understand it very quickly.


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