Anita Ahuja | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 19, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Anita Ahuja

Anita Ahuja

The Art of Waste

“The Virgin Garden”
“The Virgin Garden”

Plastic bags and industrial waste can be transformed into beautiful works of art, believes environmentalist- artist-writer-designer Anita Ahuja. At her exhibition, titled “At War with the Obvious”, at India International Centre, Anita put together 30 paintings and multimedia artworks that attracted many wows.
One of her stunning works was “The Virgin Garden” fashioned out of tires, industrial and textile waste. “This is one of my favourite compositions,” says the 53-year-old artist about the womb-like structure.
Alongside conventional acrylic on canvas paintings, are artworks that speak volumes about present day society. There's “The Crazy Society” made of leather scrap, jean labels that shows how “God has become like a brand. Earlier our ancestors used to worship under the open skies or forests. Today your level of affluence defines the kind of temple you visit,” says Anita.
The theme of brands also emerges in “People Talk too much Generally”. Here leather scrap and labels are plastered all over a woman's face to make the point that rather than respecting natural beauty, women use cosmetic brands of every kind to heighten their allure. “If cosmetic industry turns out so many brands, then why shouldn't labels be pasted on women's faces as well?” questions Anita.
“Cosmopolitan” is inspired by a National Geographic aerial view of a map that explores the theme of how unevenly electricity is distributed between affluent countries like the US and the impoverished African nations. The work is intended to show how waste is spread across the world.
This is the second season of the exhibition. The first edition was held in December last at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi.  The centre of attraction was a giant handbag made of rubber tire waste. Visitors could wander inside the handbag and get a sense of the crazy traffic of Delhi as well. “Walking inside a stylish handbag is a great experience for visitors but also promotes our brand,” says Anita. The third exhibition will be held during Environment Week (June 206) a t Nehru Centre in London.
Anita is not only an artist but the driving force behind social enterprise Conserve India that transforms every kind of waste into fashion and interior accessories like bags, footwear, jewelry, wallpaper, fabrics and rugs. Anita's forte is bags of every kind—day bags, evening bags and beach bags. The products branded “Conserve hrp”  make their way to high end retail shops in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia.
Conserve India that has been co-founded by Anita's engineer husband Shalabh, does not merely eye profits, it also  provides a livelihood to 300 rag-pickers, “The poorest of the  poor” who struggle to make a living in a society that regards them as social pariahs. The enterprise trains 1,200 rag-pickers so that they can get jobs in the factories that dot the industrial estate of Bahadurgarh, Haryana where Conserve India is located.
Truly, Anita is pushing her own creative barriers all the time and this is reflected in her exhibition -- that ended yesterday.

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