Wednesday, December 30th, 2015
Zaka the Man Behind the Mask in St Lucia
Simon (Zaka) Gajadhar is a boatbuilder by training but in a colourful café on the waterfront in downtown Soufrie on the island of St Lucia he is busy making faces and has founded a successful art gallery selling masks and totems that he carves himself.
Zaka as the locals now know him was born and raised in SW London, UK.
By the age of 15 he was running a stall in Portabella market, buying & selling antiques and clothing.
He salvaged a first wooden boat at the age 17 and took to living on-board her and subsequently on board a series of wooden boats. He then attended the International Boatbuilding Training Centre in Lowestoft gaining a city and guild diploma as a shipwright.
In 1993 he decided to visit St. Lucia, the land of his father, in a bid to discover his roots. He loved the island so much he threw away his return ticket to the UK
Within months he was running the wood shop at a marina boatyard and had absolutely no desire to return back to England.
He started his art gallery in 1997 when his daughter Calypso was just born, He had, he told us, made some carved heads from a very hard wood called Campeche, but they had sat in an art gallery for some months without selling and were returned to him as non-sellers, because they were too heavy and were just collecting dust.
Even he did not know what to do with them so he split one of them in half, made a hanger tying wire to the back of it and hanging it on the wall.
He liked the effect but felt they could be more colourful so he painted them and when someone offered to buy them he realised the market lay in painted masks rather than wooden carved copies of Easter Island heads.
The name comes from the Hiatian god of the forest, trees, earth and agriculture