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Wood-carving Statues for the Devout in Lent

March 23, 2012

By Jayashree Lengade-Shetty

Wood-carver Mingleshwar Sequeira, 39, deftly brushes red colour to depict blood on the bruised sculpted body of Jesus Christ while his younger brother Benzoni, 34, skillfully touches gild on the rim of a violet robe draped on another life-size statue in their workshop, located in the idyllic suburb of Vasai, in northwest Mumbai.

For the Sequeira brothers, trained sculptors and, their father Ronald and uncle Roque, conventional wood-carvers, the months before and during the ongoing 40-day Lent period is as busy as ever with orders to create full-size idols depicting episodes from the “Passion of Christ” leading to the epoch event of being crucified on Mount Calvary.

The Sequeira workshop thick with the scent of wood mingling with oil paint and turpentine, bustles with carpenters and artisans working from dawn to dusk engaged in cutting, chipping or scraping wood. Some are busy carving out fine ornate work on tables, doors, windows, chairs and making solid furniture for churches. Others assist in painting busts and statues, which bear chiseled faces and appear almost real with glistening eyes.

For the devout and the faithful Christian it is that time of the year to dedicate oneself for penance and sacrifice for about six weeks that lead to Good Friday (April 6, 2012), when Christ was crucified, followed by resurrection being celebrated on Easter Sunday (April 8, 2012).

“They are sad episodes. One has to really concentrate while working. The emotion has to look real,” said Benzoni as he vividly explained the season’s different idols sculpted in light beige colour wood belonging to the ‘sewan’ variety, specially used for being flexible and durable.

The huge sculptures poignantly portray Christ in events that include: after the arrest standing with hands tied in front, being dragged, tied with face to a pillar and hands wound in front, bruised body after being lashed and tortured and tied to a cross. There is also one of Mother Mary for Palm Sunday.

“It’s very spiritual,” he said of the varied work orders that have poured from all over the country. Once completed they are transported and installed in churches across India for prayers planned during the Lent period. Apart from tall statues there are several demands by families for smaller idols to mount them in homes.

Sequeiras’ forte, that also includes a large part of their work, is making exquisite religious statues, intricately carved altars, pulpits, plaques recounting Biblical scenes from religious texts; as also crowns, veils and ornaments gilded with genuine gold tint.

One of their most challenging and acclaimed work that bestowed them with a UNESCO award was gilding Mumbai’s Bhai Daji Lad Museum, built during the British colonial rule, which had undertaken restoration work in 2001.

—————————————————————————————————————————Photos: courtesy Sequeira brothers

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