November 2019 saw the inauguration of the four-km Kartarpur Corridor, which connects the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, spent the last 18 years of his life. The corridor allows Indian-origin pilgrims a visa-free entry into Pakistan, and is considered a landmark in Indo-Pak diplomacy.
Along this historical highway stand 13 sculptures recreating the valour of the Sikh community. These are the works of Adittee Garg, a Delhi-based artist who led a team of hundreds of artisans and craftspersons in the project. “Ek Omkar above the lotus flower signifies the unity of religions. I am proud of being a part of creating history,” says Adittee, whose previous projects included a Buddha head carved with Islamic details after the Taliban destroyed the monumental Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.
Born in a haveli that was situated near potters’ huts in Delhi, Adittee was attracted to clay from an early age, watching colourfully dressed men and women give it form. Encouraged by their friendliness, she spent her playtime amongst them.
“It never was a clear-cut decision to be a sculptor when I grew up. It was just in me. My mind revolved around forms and colours and my fingers around different mediums,” recalls Adittee, who is now mother to a 20-year-old daughter.
After completing her Master’s in business administration, and as she puts it, “wasting five years of her life in the corporate world,” Adittee restarted her formal education, this time with a Bachelor’s in fine arts from Khairagarh University (now called Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya) followed by a Master’s from Banaras Hindu University.
“My mother is an evolved human being; she not only encouraged me to pursue my dream but also helped me in every way possible,” says Adittee of the support she received in her new career.
Her journey as a sculptor taught the 42-year-old about the nature of humans, and she also found herself closer to nature in the wild. “My art gets its power from day-to-day life, which is also why it has the capacity to move and influence people,” she says.
When she realised that polluting sculpting materials were gaining an edge over natural ones, she became an activist and began popularising natural sculpting materials instead. “I prefer natural materials that are not mined. I have also been using old recycled and reclaimed metals and materials,” says Adittee, whose work has adorned Rashtrapati Bhavan, besides universities, colleges, hotels, and corporate offices across India.
“Creating art is not a nine-to-five job,” she explains of the process. “When an idea strikes, it is first a mental process and then my hands create it in clay.” In the course of her work, she has provided employment to hundreds of karigars (artisans), working with mediums as varied as marble, bronze, wood and fibre-cast.
“We become one family, stay together, eat together, laugh together and work together,” explains Adittee, who looks up to the works of British artist Henry Moore and Somnath Hore from India.
She goes on, smiling, “People call me a hopeless romantic and dreamer. I have been told that I can create magic with clay.” This is definitely the right career path for Adittee.
First published in eShe’s January 2020 issue