Written by 3:42 pm Amazine • One Comment

Recycling scrap into art

Everything is recycled in India, even dreams, said Shashi Tharoor. So true! We Indians recycle everything. I passed a trunk full of my unfinished dreams and hopes to my children to recycle. They handpicked a couple and discarded the rest. In recycling, there is no such thing as ‘throwing away’, it must go somewhere.

Yes, I truly believe in that, being a hoarder and a keeper from a very young age. Takeaway tubs, cartons, broken crockery, old frying pans…I don’t throw anything away. How do you expect that from someone who keeps all the letters and bills from 30 years???

I am Lakshmi, living in Botswana, Southern Africa. I got married while I was still in college, managed to finish my course and came to Africa. I was into painting and drawing from a very young age but never took it seriously – a few handmade greeting cards here and there during Christmas and birthdays…mainly to Amma (my mother) after our fights! She still has some of them though.

I felt very lonely here, especially since I come from a very large family. I had no friends or family here; all the girls of my age were still studying. I started painting again, tried acrylic for the first time and it came out quite well. I didn’t even know the difference between acrylic and water colours. Tried water colours, acrylic, oil pastels, oil paints…different mediums…Finally, I discovered that oil is my forte. Did lots of oil paintings, portraits, landscapes…My home started looking like an art gallery. Oil is quite messy, but the effect is phenomenal. Cleaning up after each work is daunting. And the paints and canvases are so pricey too.

Botswana is a beautiful country, it is my second home, no – my home. But it is not a hobby/craft/art friendly place. We have many local artists here and I wonder how they afford the art supplies!! It is not plausible to bring them from India either. So a couple of years ago I revived my recycling art, I took a few jam/mason/sauce jars, made fairy houses…picked pebbles from the yard, did some pebble art, butterflies from soft drink cans, a few garden signs from old discarded frying pans and pallet remnants, a coffee table from a termite eaten guava trunk, candle holders from broken branches, little bird houses, painted pots, a garden chair and cottage from logs and pallets…Mainly garden accessories for my garden.

When lockdown started in March 2020, I got fascinated by embroidery, which I had never tried my hand at. Amma used to embroider…I had watched a few you tube channels and thought I could do it. Found reams of discarded calico fabric and threads in our office attic, brought them home and started. I made a few embroidered cushions, table clothes, curtains and shopping bags! I even made an English rose corner in my living area with embroidered sofa cover, cushions and curtains! I have a poetry coffee table there, decoupaged table with my favourite poems! Not to forget my tables – I had eight identical ugly coffee tables. Throwing away and buying new ones were of course an easier option, but I decided to give them a face lift, I hand painted, decoupaged, and did glass mosaic. They all now look different and unique.

I really would like to continue embroidering, another challenge I face, the threads are so very expensive. A friend of mine who runs a fabric shop, told me that no one is into embroidery these days, so no shops want to keep the paraphernalia!

Needed something else to calm my jittery nerves. Looked around, found some old chopping blocks, tins and started painting them. Wood painting is so relaxing. The effect of paint on wooden plank is amazing. My lovely neighbour gave me some bottles and I have plenty to work on.

A month ago, my domestic helper who has been with me for 22 years, long enough to know my craze, brought an old discarded damaged gas cylinder from somewhere. I gave it a makeover and it has a special place in my living room.

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life, said Pablo Picasso. I believe that. Art helps me relieve monotony, art helps me to hold on when I am sad or depressed.  Art elevates my mood, changes my attitude…it calms people a lot. You feel creative, wanted, important, contented and positive. I urge every woman to do something from today, to make yourself happy…

By Lakshmi Mohan Sumod

Lakshmi is a mum of two, a loving wife and businesswoman. She lives in Africa, using every moment of her spare time to create beautiful pieces of art. The Botswana Cricket Association honoured dignitaries from ICC by presenting them with African paintings done by Lakshmi.  She has also done a collage of ethnic murals for Kerala Samajam for the celebration of their festival, Onam. Check out more of her handiwork here http://lakshmimohan.simplesite.com/

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