Eye for detail
For most of us, ice cream sticks are thrown away and forgotten the moment the frozen feast is over. Not for Ahmed Khamis al Salehi. The 32 year old resident of Suwaiq has the gift of making exquisite pieces of art out of what we dispose without a second thought. His ice cream stick creations include models of cakes, classic cars, clocks, dhows, symbols of Omani culture such as mandoos boxes and ornate doors, and even wheel chairs.
Though handicapped by the loss of the use of his legs, the dexterity in his hands in creating these handicrafts is beginning to get the attention of collectors 150km away in Muscat and beyond. Salehi has persevered to perfect his art over 13 years despite several shortcomings.
His ice cream stick models are now sought after art objects for paying customers. Besides citizens and residents, Salehi also sells to tourists. “Schools and universities have expressed interest in holding exhibitions of my creations,” he said.
His creations are made of wood – primarily used ice cream sticks. “Some pieces take a long time, especially the cars. Some car models take about two months because I include details like the seats, dashboard, lights, tyres etc. Some pieces are big, as big as 2m. The Omani houses and doors take about a week to ten days. People place these pieces in gardens and courtyards,” Salehi said, adding that he creates made-to-order pieces for customers.
Besides the constraints resulting from his physical handicap in pursuing his art and popularising it, Salehi’s challenges include sourcing used ice cream sticks. “Also, some people don’t appreciate the value of these handmade artistic pieces. They compare these with machine made imported souvenirs and showpieces.”
Salehi is also appalled by the attitude towards physically challenged individuals. “Unfortunately, there are people who look at us as being unable. I have overcome my disability with determination. It requires patience, confidence in one’s abilities and the support of family. I’m thankful to my family who supported me financially and morally in my artistic pursuit.”
Encouraging other individuals with physical handicap like himself, he said, "You must believe in your abilities. You are capable of miracles.”
Salehi hopes to have his own workshop someday where he makes art objects of world class. “I want to make these pieces an easily recognisable brand of arts and handicrafts.”