Home » Health » Art of a Doctor… Solanki Knows No Barriers

Eccentric and controversial, the cliches come to mind but somehow they do not quite define Harare emergency physician Dr Vivek Solanki. It would be fair to label him as a man of many talents who spares no effort to bring out the best in him be it in medicine, art, gardening and building hospitals.

With a penchant for excellence, Dr Solanki believes that to achieve your desires and objectives, you should never retire but continue working and keep your mind busy all the time. And that could explain why he has a restless mind and always carries a pad and a pen to sketch some of the ideas that come into his mind in between consultations with patients at his recently opened Trauma Centre in Borrowdale where he also has an art gallery.

Dr Solanki is a medical doctor who has risen to prominence not only in Zimbabwe but throughout sub-Saharan Africa by building hospitals and related health facilities across the continent and abroad.

He is a fourth generation Zimbabwean of Rajput origins from India who benefited from a scholarship programme for bright local medical students at the University of Zimbabwe.

That combined with his entrepreneurial and innovation skills has seen him rise to become a force to reckon with in medical circles locally and beyond.

Right now many would naturally associate Dr Solanki with his long drawn ownership wrangle with African Medical Investments over control of Trauma Centre in Avondale.

In June last year, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of AMI over the ownership of the medical facility that they jointly owned with Dr Solanki. It appears the legal skirmishes are not yet over as Dr Solanki has mounted a suit against the ruling.

But meanwhile, he has not sat back on his laurels praying for a favourable outcome. He has opened another Trauma Centre in Borrowdale where it is business as usual for the gumptious medical practitioner.

It was there that Saturday Herald Lifestyle caught up with him as he unveiled his art collection ranging from oil and acrylic paintings, wood carvings and antique furniture collection in his makeshift gallery.

The gallery is made from a disused container vessel that has been modified with ventilation and lighting fittings in line with the desired settings. Stylishly sitting on top of the gallery is another container modified to complete the unique deacutecor of the structure. He sees no conflict between the starkness of medical practice and the ephemeral nature of art appreciation.

“Medicine is a form of art. It needs a lot of innovation and as for me I grew up with it and in fact I was born with it. In all my clinics and homes, I do not hire interior decorators, I just do it on my own and I enjoy doing it.”

Asked what inspires his art, Dr Solanki said he had travelled widely in Africa and from the many photographs that he has taken he sketches some of the images to come up with paintings.

Images from the Masai in Kenya and the Bambaras in Mali present a diverse mix of his travels across the continent. He does this mainly for fun and his works are displayed in his hospitals and occasionally does some exhibitions. While he has sold some of his paintings, Dr Solanki does not consider himself a commercial artist and has occasionally donated some paintings that have been auctioned for charity. He works closely with some local artists whose works are also on display at his gallery.

“Painting is not a full time job that I do every day and it can take me up to two or three months to finish an inspirational piece. I am not a commercial artist and I don’t make a living out of this, but I just do it for pleasure. I’ve done the odd exhibitions, but if you come to my house, it’s like a museum and it tells you a story.

“Art and life are always evolving and you can never know everything and so it’s ongoing. We can never have time to know everything. With age comes experience, knowledge, wisdom and you can make few mistakes and that’s the reason why I tell a lot of my patients not to retire and keep on doing something.”

As a Zimbabwean of Indian origin, Dr Solanki embraces his double heritage with one giving him his ancestry and the other his nationality.

He is married to Ana. The couple have a daughter named India. Dr Solanki describes himself as a true Zimbabwe patriot who has over the past two decades offered to serve effectively in the health delivery sector.

Despite his initial failed attempt to open Parkview Hospital in Harare due to a partnership dispute, he successfully established the Baines 24 Hour Emergency Rooms, Well Woman Clinic, Cardiac Centre and Trauma Centre, all successful ventures that he has sold off to establish new ones. He has also refurbished numerous private and State health facilities throughout the country and has also been instrumental in resuscitating the University of Zimbabwe Medical Library. Dr Solanki’s benevolence was also evident during the 2008 cholera outbreak when he donated medicines to hundreds of victims.

The doctor is a certified medical assessor for the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and acts as the principal medical examiner for all pilots operating in this country.

Getting back to his art, Dr Solanki signs off his paintings as “Sikandar”, derived from an ancient Sanskrit word which means “warrior”, which could perhaps help one to understand his never-say-die attitude in the various clashes and battles that he has been involved with some of his business colleagues. The Indian Rajput is a warrior tribe that is known to take all battles to the finish, owning no tactic involving surrender.

On the question of spreading his operations to outlying areas, Dr Solanki singled out affordability and viability as the major factor drawing back investment in such areas. Attracting qualified staff into such areas was also a challenge. As a community service project, Dr Solanki said he was soon to launch mobile health services on a fully medically equipped bus that will be moving to rural areas without access to health services.

Source : The Herald

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