Sanjay the Sand Sculptor

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by René Lion-Cachet

Sanjay Jhowry (49) of Pereybere, Mauritius only started building sand sculptures when he was 44 years old! This multi-talented shopkeeper, saxophone virtuoso and consummate fine line artist simply decided to increase his accomplishments by adding yet another string to his bow.

At first, Sanjay the Sand Man’s efforts were modest works which he did at the crack of dawn on secluded beaches so nobody would see him working. Later, many of the beachgoers were amazed to find reclining forms in the sand when they arrived on the beach in the morning. After three years of constant improvement and without the guidance of a teacher, Sanjay started to work under the bright sun and under constant public gaze.

Soon, he not only became used to a circle of people standing around him watching him work, but expected it and welcomed those taking photographs with cameras, cellphones and tablets. As time went by his work became more complex and time consuming, taking up to seven hours to complete. He started constructing vertical objects in group scenes.  He coaxed the sand into vertical shapes as if by magic – he even designed and constructed a device to reinforce outstretched arms and camel’s necks.

Sanjay’s genius is demonstrated by his ability to see his intended subject inside a heap of sand. All he has to do is scrape away the light covering of sand around the subject to reveal it to the world.  When he gets a moment, he surfs the internet to compare his progress with the rest of the world’s sand sculptors.

The lifespan of his sculptures are usually not more than the day of its construction. The next morning it is nothing but a pile of sand, indistinguishable from the rest of the beach. Only once did he actually see someone destroy his work that took seven hours to complete.  He had finally finished in the late afternoon and went to fetch his wife to see his latest work, as she stood admiring the statue, a local thug walked up to his art and destroyed it with one karate kick. His friends say that usually it is unruly or unsupervised children or inebriated nightclub patrons who feel their evening entertainment isn’t complete until they have destroyed someone else’s creation. “It hurts, so I avoid witnessing the wanton destruction of my beautiful work,” he confessed.

These sand sculptures in fact have a longer life after its destruction than before. All the photographs that are taken on numerous devices are sent all over the world and appear on Facebook and other social media. “It is a comfort to know that there are so many images out there and that the sculpture will live in cyber space forever,” he says.

Sanjay has been working to perfect his art for five years. He lives with the anticipation that someone will soon commission a head-and-shoulders sculpture in a more durable material. He is ready to be discovered and to become an overnight success.

Note from the Editor:

I had the privilege of meeting Sanjay during a recent visit to Mauritius. I was awed by his sand sculptures, but he also impressed me with his humbleness. For Sanjay it is important that people enjoy his work. He does not get paid for the hours that he puts into making these wonderful sand figures, but gets his satisfaction from the joy it brings the visitors on the beach. He has a dream to visit South Africa so that he can also make his sand sculptures on our beautiful beaches. I think that South Africans – and the world for that matter – deserve to experience his work first-hand.  If you can help Sanjay to make his dream a reality, please contact me at editor@devotedmag.co.za