Turning Waste Into Art

blind man

One man?s waste is another man?s art. This is the story of Rajendran Vadakkepadath, a painter and teacher from the small town of Chittur in Palakkad, Kerala. He has sourced his own canvas by using dried banana leaves that are available in his village in plenty. While these leaves might carelessly thrown away or strewn across the road as litter, Rajendran uses these leaves to paint beautiful pieces of art.

The inspiration for this was drawn from the fact that since time immemorial, leaves like the banana leaf, palm leaves and peepal leaves were used for the purpose of painting and calligraphy.

The benefits of using these banana leaves are not restricted to just the eco-friendly nature of the canvas. Rajendran claims that these banana leaf paintings can last for over a century if preserved well within a glass covering. The monochrome paints used by Rajendran bring out the natural, burnt-ochre tint of dry banana leaves.

A specific methodology has been adopted by Rajendra to transform the delicate dry leaves into durable canvas. While he chooses not to reveal the exact manner in which he transforms these leaves, he has confirmed that the durability of these leaves can be increased by first soaking them for prolonged periods in milk.

He adopts the method of ?reverse coloring? with acrylic paints to create delicate works of art. This method though tedious, has resulted in beautiful paintings. His most famous and notable work is the ?Shree Padmanabhaswamy? which has been painted on an 8x4.5 ft. banana leaf canvas. It depicts the goddess lying down gracefully at the foot of the temple. It took him over 5 months to create this.

Rajendran has created a niche in this area of art. He claims that no one else in the world is capable of creating art on these banana leaves because of the sheer tenderness of the leaves once it dries up. He has successfully combined his inspiration for art from renowned painters like Michelangelo and Namboothri and his dedication for a more sustained form of living to create these masterpieces.

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