International Sand Art Festival
- Dr. Sunil Kothari
Photos courtesy: Odisha Tourism

December 8, 2012

During the 6th short documentary film festival organized by Jatin Das Centre for Arts at Bhubaneswar in January 2012, I happened to visit Konark with renowned author Uma Vasudev, her sister Aruna Vasudev with several film festivals to her credit and Jai Chandiram, in charge of screening films for the festival. We were taken to Chandrabhaga beach to see sand sculptures, which were sculpted for Konark Dance Festival 2011. I had seen photographs in the newspapers, but had no idea about its dimension and popularity. Attending Konark Dance Festival 2012, I went to the beach one morning with mime artist Arusam Madhusudan from Hyderabad and celebrated dance critic Leela Venkataraman and was amazed to see huge sand sculptures lined up in a long row.

We were told that it is on record that a 14th century poet Balaram Das, a devotee of Lord Jagannath, created a sand chariot in His honour. The tradition of sand sculpting is very much alive and a number of artists regularly practice it. The beaches of Puri and Chandrabhaga provide a perfect canvas for sand art. Now this art has been taken as one of the mediums for tourism promotion. Last year, the first ever festival of sand sculpture was organized by Department of Tourism, Govt. of Odisha, coinciding with Konark Dance Festival 2011. International artists from six countries including USA, Holland, Canada, Ghana, UK and Portugal had participated along with 24 national artists from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Puducherry and Odisha.

A competition was held among the national artists. They were required to create new sculptures every day. The jury evaluated their work each day and cumulative points decided the awards. The theme was ‘Tourism Linking Culture.’ The first prize of Rs. 1,00,000 went to Jitendar Kumar Jagdev (34), Balu Mohanty (32) bagged second prize of Rs. 50,000 and Tarini Nayak (33) bagged the third prize of Rs. 25,000. For international artists, Mr. A.K.Tripathy, Principal Secretary, Tourism and Culture, Govt. of Odisha, told us that a people’s choice prize of USD 500 was declared with popular votes earned by Ghana artist Bob Atisso. Tripathy said that the International Sand Art Festival is now a permanent feature of the calendar of festivals organized by the Tourism Department and will be celebrated every year from 1st till 5th December at Chandrabhaga beach, Konark.

The participants for 2012 included 10 foreign participants from 9 countries. Benjamin Probanza - Mexico, Etual Ojeda - Spain, Joojeng Tan - Singapore, Katsuhiko Chaen - Japan, Benoit Dutherage - France, Elisabeth Kristensen - Norway, Damian van der Velden - Netherlands, Brian Turnbough and Russell Lee Croft - USA, and Ulrich - Germany.
The 20 Indian participants included Vaibhav Chandrakant Kwate and Laxmi Nauratan Goud from Maharashtra; Tarini Nayak, Santosh Kumar Nayak, Anupam Mohanty, Nikunja Kishore Nayak, Banambar Pattanaik, Jitendra Kishore Jagdev, Hrushikesh Nayak, Ballabh Mohapatra, Bulu Mohanty, Ranjan Kumar Ganguli, Biswajit Jena, Pramod Pattanaik, Badal Tarai and Susanta Sethi from Puri; Sridhar Das and Ubala Maharana from Bhubaneswar; Om Prakash Barik from Cuttack and Dibakar Mallik from Jajpur. Two artists Pramod Kumar Biswal from Puri and Prabar Patra from Balasore were kept on the waiting list. Internationally known sand artist Sudarsan Pattanaik from Puri was declared Brand Ambassador for International Sand Arts Festival 2011 and was again chosen for the second festival.

Though short lived, sand sculpture is an exquisite art form. This year the theme was environment. A number of artists had sculpted the destruction caused to trees, pollution, constructions of buildings, erosion of land etc imaginatively, conveying the message. The dimension of sculptures was large and one marveled at their gift of translating the concepts so vividly into sand.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, based in New Delhi. He is honored by the President of India with Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Senior Critic Award from Dance Critics Association, NYC. He is a regular contributor to, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 11 years.