Valay Shende, famed for his recent public installation Dabbawala, discusses his Buffalo series and the philosophy behind his art during Saffronart’s visit at the sculptor’s studio.
“I try to portray social issues in my artwork.”
Valay Shende’s art is a documentation of his contemporary time. The son of a scrap merchant in Nagpur, Shende understands the phenomenon of migration intimately, with his own shift to Mumbai in 2000 and from the experiences of his father who had moved to Nagpur from a small village. Shende’s 2010 work, Transit, a life-size sculptural installation of a truck with 32 labourers in it that references this universal story of migration. This piece was made entirely out of tiny metal discs, which became his choice of medium in many other works.
Shende’s mission to recognise the common man’s struggles has also extended to the series titled Dabbawala. Dedicated to Mumbai’s dabbawalas—the city’s ubiquitous network of tiffin and lunch delivery men, the sculptures in these series are made of wristwatch dials (“to show their punctuality”). The most prominent in this series is a 13-foot tall public installation, made of stainless steel discs, which was recently unveiled at Haji Ali in Mumbai.