the artist: Sculptor Marlon Emmons

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Sculpting Sai Baba

By Verdel Bishop

Shortly after the passing of Indian guru and spiritual figure Sri Sathya Sai Baba, in April last year, Trinidadian Sculptor, Marlon Emmons took on the challenge to sculpt a life sized standing statute of the spiritual saint. Emmons, who recently shot into the spotlight when he sculpted a 12-foot statue of one of the most popular gods in the Hindu religion, Lord Hanuman, said his work on Sai Baba was done in recognition of Indian culture in Trinidad and Tobago.

Emmons' desire to see his creation of Sai Baba, as part of the aesthetics at the Divali Nagar during this year's Divali celebrations didn't come to fruition. The sculptor however, is hoping that next year his contribution to Indian culture in this country will be a fixture during various cultural and religious observances.

The Sai Baba statue, which took one year to complete, weighs 300 pounds and is five feet, eleven inches in height. Although Emmons has offered the statute to the Divali Nagar as a free contribution during Divali celebration, he noted his aim is to get it sold at a cost of $1.2 million. The creation of Sai Baba, he said called for a lot of intricate and detailed sculpting. "I would like to see the sculpture on display at the Divali Nagar, as part of the Indian exposition. This is my contribution to culture," he said.

Emmons, who has been sculpting for 25 years, said once the sculpture has been bought, he intends to donate a percentage to the Children's Life Fund, an initiative of the Prime Minister, Kamla Persad- Bissessar, which was set up in 2010.

A self-taught sculptor, Emmons is gifted with his hands. His purpose, he said, is to use his gift to link cultures and to break racial barriers. Growing up in a predominantly Indian community as a child piqued his curiosity about the Indian culture which only grew deeper as an adult.

"My purpose started as a child growing up with Indian neighbours. I have an understanding of the Indian culture. I used to leepay (plaster earth) their house with them. Since then I've realised my calling; it's with working with my hands and sculpting. I have a gift which was nurtured and developed. I am an artist and an entrepreneur," Emmons said.

Emmons is at a stage in his career where his focus is largely on Indian deities although he also largely dabbles in any form of cultural sculpting and sculpting of legendary figures. "I know there are always barriers in my job. But I am willing to break those barriers and bring people and cultures together. Sometimes I may not want to choose a project but it's my calling and I have to do it; I don't have a choice," Emmons said.

He added, "After the passing of Sai Baba, I thought of sculpting him so I started studying his contribution and his life as a philanthropist and a humanitarian. It took me one year to complete,"he said. For this project I used pure cement powder and cement binder; I don't use sand because the cement gives a smoother finish and it's much stronger. The cement operates similar to clay; it's just that it's much stronger," he said.

Emmons, whose works largely reflect his love for culture, is proud of his sculpted creation but feels artists like himself gets hardly any recognition in this country for their efforts. According to Emmons, "I am hoping corporate and government sponsors will see the benefit of my initiative and would assist," he said.

Emmons has other completed works, including a sculpture of Bacchus, God of Bacchanal, and is hoping the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism endorses his project. He said the partnership with the government could help promote this country. His sculpting of Bacchus, he said could be part of an exhibition during the Carnival season. The sculptor continues to draw inspiration for his projects by studying the life and works of people around the world.

The Flying Hanuman, which is air brushed and stands at about 12 feet tall, with a width of five feet, is portrayed holding a mountain in its left hand on an I-beam pole, which towers 20 feet above ground, continues to be a major attraction to all who see it.

Emmons can be contacted at marlonemmons@ymail.com

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