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Positive – Vijayanand Turns Waste into Spectacular Artwork

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Mumbai. Allen coconuts, broken coconuts, used coconuts, dried coconuts, empty coconut shells, roots and leaves of coconut trees, and coconuts from Kashmir and the Andaman Islands all take on a wonderful shape in his hands. The coconut artist is a 65-year-old Maharashtrian who has 400 pieces of coconut art on one floor of his home. His family thinks he’s insane, but his childhood enthusiasm is unconcerned.

An artist can make beauty out of any medium, no matter how limited. 65-year-old Vijayanand Shembekar embodies this concept. Instead of painting with dozens of expensive brushes or high-end software suites, Shembelkar uses waste-materials that usually are thrown away in the dustbin.

Vijayanand Shembekar worked as a senior technician in a chemical and fertiliser factory in Alibaug, Maharashtra. This down-to-earth retiree can come off as simply another regular face in the crowd. But he is a generator of art out of waste. He chose his raw material to be coconut. Today, Shembekar creates marvellous artworks out of them. He has a gallery in his house where people visit to see the masterpieces he has created.

Retirement didn’t dampen Shembekar’s spirits. Vijayanand Shembekar even teaches yoga, organises creative art programmes for challenged children, and offers lectures at various institutions. He goes to work in the morning and spends the evenings doing art. He carves incredible works of art out of coconut shells, ranging from miniatures to home decor items.

Shembekar gives credit to his friend whom he met to share his creative ideas. His friend, who was aware of his passion in creating art from waste, recommended that instead of using a variety of waste materials, he should choose one and focus his work on that. Working on his friend’s advice, Vijayanand took a coconut shell that day. He enraged his artistic muse and never looked back.

First floor in his house has been transformed into Ashirwad Kala Dalan, an art gallery with over 400 objects that he has repurposed from coconut waste.

“I created every exhibit out of discarded coconut shells”. Each item is composed of discarded coconut shells, collected and chiselled to perfection and precision over the last two decades from working automobile models to lamps, chains, and gallery stanchions stands.

He brings back abandoned coconut shells of various sizes and forms, from his travels, in addition to collecting coconut debris from his surrounds where the drupe is frequently used in local cuisine. Shembekar has his favourites, too.

“I prefer the Andamans’ coconut shells. They’re simple to work on.”

Shembekar is a staunch believer that no two coconut shells are alike in size or shape, which makes each piece in his gallery one-of-a-kind. Each piece takes him between two to three hours to make, and sometimes even longer depending on the quality of the coconut shell.

His most recent instrument is an antique sewing machine that he has modified to cut and polish coconut shells. Most of his earlier works, however, were created by hand with a small saw and knife.

He had dabbled in numerous mediums as a child to unleash his talents. However, in his mid-twenties, he began to consider repurposing waste and attempting something unusual. But, unlike one of his co-workers, who chiselled art works out of chalk, he couldn’t decide which medium to use. He could only put his notion into regular practise two decades later.

“A friend then recommended that instead of working on several waste products, I focus on one type of garbage. I realised that coconut trees are plentiful in my area, I stuck with the coconut shell and haven’t looked back since.” A lotus was his very first piece. A flower basket and a jewellery box followed.

His collection was born, and it was first shown to the public in 2011. Shembekar’s house has been transformed into a one-of-a-kind stop for youngsters, art lovers, and tourists visiting Alibaug. The exhibitions aren’t for sale, and he hasn’t turned his hobby into a business.

“I’m doing this out of genuine love for art and craft, as well as to recycle rubbish.” As a result, there is no charge for guests. Visitors are, nevertheless, welcome” says Shaembekar.

He has only made 20 pieces in the previous two years. But these days, he spends more time with disabled youngsters and pursues other interests such as yoga. Shembekar also educates Alibaug’s youth and art. He exposes them to the fundamentals of the profession and encourages them to market their work online. He also encourages kids to recycle rubbish and help the environment from an early age.

Shembekar says, “I regret starting this passion in my 40s.” “I could have completed a thousand exhibitions and repurposed many more if I had started sooner.”

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