Haribaabu Naatesan: A creator of artworks worth crores from ‘kabaad’


Junking an empty chips packet, a water bottle or a juice can make Haribaabu Naatesan scowl and perhaps even pick it up carefully — for, it could be a future piece of ‘artwork’ in his creative mind.

The Mumbai-based artist specialises in recycling all kinds of ‘kabaad’ (junk) — organic, inorganic, metal, wood, plastic, e-wastes and even bird feathers — to create some eye-popping masterpieces of artworks, stupefying the beholder.

Naatesan, 46, collects a staggering 6 tonnes — or 500 kgs per month — of all types of oddments as his cheap or virtually free raw material and then deploys his creative juices to convert them to treasured and coveted showpieces.

The weird passion for the rejects came out of a dire need — to secure admission to the prestigious NID, Ahmedabad, for a postgraduate course (2000 batch).

“I had no money for purchasing expensive raw materials to make an attractive art project, a prerequisite for the NID seat… So I just picked up some trash lying around, created a daddy long-legs (spider) and other creatures as my ‘offering’ for admission,” chuckled Naatesan.

Needless to say, the selectors were zapped – and ‘wasted’ no time in awarding a prized seat to the new-found genius on the campus – who promised to be a valuable future asset for ‘Save the Planet’ efforts.

From January 25, Naatesan will unveil a major public exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, of a dozen stunning designs made entirely from e-waste — already ranked as a major global nuisance.

Titled “Irreversible 2.0 – Obsoleteness is Mukti” there are innovations, with certain interactive surprises in store for the unsuspecting visitors.

“When any viewer approaches it, one or other static component springs alive and moves… Some have light sensors that glow when someone is close. In others, discarded CPU fans start rotating, and huge antique tape-recorder cassette wheels start churning if someone goes near,” explained Naatesan with a glint.

The dozen arts to go on display are entirely created from e-scrap like motherboards, CPU cooling fans, CDs, floppy discs, laptop keyboards, tape-recorder cassettes, speakers, etc., 6×6 feet dimensions, around 50-60 kgs each, and took up to six months’ tough labour to fructify.

Some of his other mega-creations include a 800-kg Lord Ganesh idol made from alum, a Volkswagen’s Think Blue campaign resulting in a Beetle car made totally from e-scrap.

Then, there’s the magnificent ‘Make In India’ logo of a 3-dimensional Lion — commissioned by the Bombay Iron Merchant Association — which stands on a pedestal at P.D’Mello Road, and a Golden Spiral for the Raheja Groups at Bandra Kurla Complex.

There’s his biggest creation from waste till date — a stupendous 17-metre long, 6-metre-tall whale, born from 10 tonnes of automobile junk — standing on the Gujarat Science City campus.

Fortunately for Naatesan, his wife, Dahlea H. — a graphic designer — did not ‘junk’ him after his love for the junkyard came to the fore, and now their 10-year-old daughter Neinyaa H. has taken the first steps to save the Earth by carefully disposing off even choco-wrappers — as her Papa beams with pride.

Contrary to perception that he goes hunting for ‘kabaad’, it’s the reverse now, given his reputation for hoarding it — all junk comes to him, even from his housing society, and he recycles it all into unrecognisable art-forms.

“Once, the TV remote at home went missing… My wife suspiciously asked me whether I had ‘junked’ it… Well… I admitted the truth…” laughed Naatesan, explaining his obsession for any unwanted things lying around at home, garden, roadside, etc., and he devises ways to give it ‘mukti’ (salvation).

“When I recycle any unloved junk into art, it ends the recycling and ‘liberates’ them in the sense that those pieces now find an eternal place for themselves,” said Naatesan, summing up his cranky but eco-friendly and money-spinner profession.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here