Stucco techniques have been known to sculptors for millennia. Some historians opine that the pyramids (approx. 4000 years ago) were plastered originally white. The Greek and Romans are known to have used stucco in constructions and sculptures. It must be during this period that Sangam era Tamils (the predecessors of modern south Indians) learned this technique, through maritime traders. Numerous imperial Chola period temples have their facades decorated using this technique. With the invention of Portland cement in 1843, the traditional method of making lime-based stucco was replaced by cement-based ones. One drawback of cement stucco is that its life-span is low, compared to that of plastered stucco. The first cement factory in India was established in Madras (Chennai) in 1904, and within a decade it became the standard use due to its low cost. Since then, this sort of painted cement sculptures have been decorating the façades and premises of the new temples; standing in stark contrast to the granite and bronze sculptures that were built to withstand for a longer period. What used to be hero stones and local deities, these days have local heroes in the form of policemen and other such contemporary symbols. This is popular especiallyin Tamil Nadu. This image was shot by Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad in the year 2012.

Saluting policeman, 2012

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  • Abul Kalam Azad is an Indian visual artist and photographer based in Kerala. His works are largely personal explorations and documentation of experiences, and memories of his native land, people, and their culture. They deal with issues of identity, ethics, micro/macro history, and eroticism. His works have exhibited Nationally/Internationally in reputed museums and galleries. He has received Charles Wallace Award in the year 1996 and recognized by the French government through a scholarship grant. He is a recipient of grants from the Government of India and India Foundation for the Arts (IFA). He is the founder of Ekalokam Trust for Photography and Editor-in-chief of PhotoMail Online magazine.