Anne –Valérie Dupond with the participants during the workshop
Meet Anne–Valérie Dupond - or AVD as she likes to call herself - and you would fall in love with her. Ask her about her charming smile and she blushes, the smile growing much wider, matching her charming gesture. Anne, who is currently on a trip to India, is conducting a fortnight workshop in Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti (GSDS), the National Memorial of Mahatma Gandhi with participants who include the staff and volunteers guides of GSDS, members from the Srijan (Gandhi Smriti Educational Centre) Unit and others drawn from the marginalized sections of the society. The workshop began on April 1.
Besides training them to make her favorite animals, she is also working on soft sculptures on historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Gautam Buddha and so on.
Talk to her about her work, and she says: “My work is making sculptures with fabrics. I’m working simply with recovered fabrics, needle and thread. I try to create a world crafted from sensitivity, ranging from the bestial (hunting trophies and animals of all kinds) to human representations such as busts of historic figures, pin-ups, and baroque sculpture. Whatever the representation, I like to approach the female/male duality with humour, playfully caricaturizing the stereotypes.”
Speaking about her experiences in working with GSDS, Anne says, “This is a unique experience. It is a little different from the workshops I have earlier conducted. This is my first trip to India. I must say that I love the ornamentation the girls are doing here in their sculptures. It looks decorative”, she smiles.
She quickly shifts her attention to one of the participants making a figure of Gautam Buddha and deftly draws a line with her pencil between the nose and the lips, explaining the nuances of the thin representation of the stitches from one end to the other to bring out the face of Buddha in meditation.
She informs that her coming to India happened by chance, for which she feels elated and lucky. She met France Grand one of her admirers and a social thinker in Paris who introduced her to Mahatma Gandhi. “France Grand told me a lot about Mahatma Gandhi and I read about him. When I sculpted him (Gandhi), I felt he looked at me and smiled back. I am happy I’m here”, she says, with a sparkle in her eyes.
She continues, “The experience in India is humane. When I go back, (her eyes are moist now), I will like to work on Indian portraits and work with a lot of color. I would like to work on Indian movements and history. I know my work will be different”.
Anne isn’t sure if she would like to repeat her experiences of India, in France. “It is a mystery”, she points out, “If I would repeat the same kind of work in France with ornamentation. But it has definitely changed me, I don’t know how yet, in my work and in my life. But I will go step by step”.
(Rajdeep Pathak is a Program Executive in Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org