An Italian sculptor’s vision for Mamallapuram

A detour during a bus journey to Puducherry brought a twist in the life of Stefano Beccari

In Italy, there is a little town called Pietrasanta, also know as “City of Art”. Having been a participant and a witness to the formation of this art village, Stefano Beccari, a sculptor, today, dreams of a similar village in Mamallapuram.

“That's because India is special. Mamallapuram is special and it cannot be contained by one art form; we need to collaborate all the art forms in one place — dance, music, stone and bronze sculptures, painters and creative thinkers.” At 74-years, he is the most bubbly man you will meet as you walk down Othavadai street in Mamallapuram.

Beccari first arrived here in 2009. It was a calling that made him stop by this village. On his way from Pune to Puducherry, the bus had to stop by the fishing hamlet. It was in this detour that he witnessed a sculptor at every point on the road. Being a sculptor himself, he cut short his trip to Puducherry and explored the village, which eventually became his second home. The sounds of the hammers and chisels was music to his ears.

It wasa eureka moment, he says. “It took me one week to explore the various artistes around the village. I was particularly drawn to Bhaskaran, one of the finest stone sculptors of the village.”

Beccari’s work involved bringing together various artistes and conducting workshops. So, when Bhaskaran offered to help him bring artistes from around, he was ecstatic. Its been an association of eight years since then. It has benefited hundreds of sculptors to learn and understand the art form of the Pallava and the Chola dynasty.

An Italian sculptor’s vision for Mamallapuram

Today, Beccari and Bhaskaran conduct workshops for people from all over the world under the name of Make Art in India. “Mamallapuram is a cultural hot spot with a perfect historical setting; a UNESCO heritage site, teeming with various artistes, skaters, surfers, board-makers. Like Pietrasanta, he hopes to see people from all over India showcase their works seasonally, making it a one-stop destination for the many art lovers.

“Thirty years ago, Pietrasanta was exactly like Mamallapuram. Sculptors creating art for the churches. At that point, the city of Pietrasanta decided to make way for galleries from Milan, Venice and Florence, to seasonally establish their work, in order to enhance not just the town of Pietrasanta, but also to make it easier for art lovers from this region to have a look at the work of other established artistes. So if it can work in Italy, I strongly believe I can make a similar city of arts in Mamallapuram. But my challenges can only be resolved by similar-minded supporters.” Stefano also jokes, “I am here to help you establish a dream for art lovers and artistes, with my expertise. So, use me!”

He takes over important art projects from Europe, brings it to Mamallapuram and gives employment to the local sculptors.

Stefano works as a middle man on big projects, taking the cultural expectations of Europe and translating them in the Indian context to get the desired result.

Beccari is also a guiding force behind the various cultural programmes that are run by the locals, like the recently concluded second book fair.

The writer is a surfer and restaurateur based in Mamallapuram

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 7:06:51 PM |

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