Myths and variant beliefs are important threads that have bound the fabric of Indian culture. Even though our country has stepped into the modern era, certain beliefs and art forms still persist with its singleness.
Of all Indian states, Kerala has a unique way of exhibiting its myths and heroes through classical and folk arts—Malabar bearing the crown of folk tradition. As we dive deep into this world of colors, the grandeur of Theyyam embraces us in all its glory. Rather than being a folk art, Theyyam can be seen as a blend of divinity, belief and sadhana of the human mind. The artist’s body that evokes the deity is placed on a higher pedestal irrespective of his position in the caste hierarchy. When artists adorn the magnificence of this art, they are elevated to a divine status despite their so-called ‘devalued’ stratum in society.
For each Malayalee, a traditional Kerala festival, may it be Onam, Vishu, temple festival or one’s own birthday, is incomplete without the traditional Kerala dhothis and sarees. Kuthampully, a village on the banks of Bharathappuzha is famous for its own hand-loomed Kerala style clothing. Around 600 families here in this village are engaged in the making of ‘kasavu’ sarees, veshti, dhoti and ‘settu mundu’ which are highly accepted not even in Kerala, but around the world and across the cultures.
Though the natives are proud of their products and the acceptance they receive across the borders, the handloom industry here is on the verge of closure owing to lack of interest among the new generation to stick to their traditional business and to get settled in the village itself. Besides, the Government’s financial policies and ignorance of the craftsmen also make them put an end to this age-old employment.
“It is said that our ancestors came from Mysore to weave clothing for the king of Kochi centuries ago. They got settled here and made this village their home. Eventually, they started to sell them to the public who are interested. Thus, our products became quite famous among the local people and the outsiders,” says Saravanan (name has been changed to protect identity). The village is situated at Thiruvilwamala panchayat of Thrissur district.
To those who always lament about the new generation students’ lack of interest in public affairs, here is a team of vibrant young students who have turned a 15-cent abandoned space in the heart of Kollam town into a peaceful evening hangout spot. The third year architecture students of Bishop Jerome School of Architecture in Kollam took a 15-cent land at Asramam under lease and made an attractive hangout space there using common waste and easily-available materials such as bamboo, used sacks, mud, coconut husk and shells.
The student team took up the project as part of a national competition being conducted by the National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA). As per the guidelines NASA provided, the students have to find a live place in the town and recreate it using waste materials. Asramam ground is a famous public ground in Kollam and the recreated area is a part of it.
“The spot is at one corner of the ground and has been abandoned by the natives. The whole area was bushy and messy when we began cleaning work as part of the project. It took us almost one month to finally get the area ready for the modification work,” said Diya Sosa Cheriyan, one of the leading participants in the team.
As the world is gearing up to celebrate the year’s Folklore Day on August 22, a group of folklore enthusiasts in Palakkad is ecstatic over the district’s own folklore art form, ‘Poraattu Kali’. As part of the three-day Folklore Day celebrations conducted by ‘Kalikkoottam’, a folklore enthusiasts’ group based in Shekhareepuram, Palakkad, a demonstration of ‘Poraattu Kali’ was performed by Mannur Chandran, Manikandan and Biju.
Mannur Chandran, a noted ‘Poraattu Kali’ exponent from the district, has travelled to almost all States in India to perform the art form. The energetic, 65-year-old artist, becomes eloquent when he starts speaking about his art. “The art form originated in Palakkad among the ‘Paanan’ community some 400 years ago. A couple from the community went to the forest for collecting bamboo. That time, the wild animals came to attack them. They made a fire circle and started singing and dancing inside it. Listening to this, the goddess came and rescued them. This is the myth behind the origin of this art form,” he says.
The art form in which the performer moves in a particular fashion back and forth in accordance with the song, incorporates drums (chenda) and ‘ilathaalam’, a miniature version of cymbals. The traditional songs are in native Palakkad slang. Most of the songs are like conversation between two characters. Newer songs are being added to the ‘Poraattu Kali’. The art form has close resemblance to ‘Therukkoothu’, a Tamil folklore art form.
Kerala has never been scarce in the number of talented and skilled artists. Almost all villages in the State is being recognised by at least one artist it has produced. This artistic affluence is the reason why artists from Kerala are being known across the world time to time. Here is one young, spirited mural artist from Atholi, a village in Kozhikode district, who has recently been chosen for the annual young artist fellowship by the Ministry of Culture for the year 2014-15. Apart from being an exponent in mural artistry, V. M. Jijulal, 37, is also one among a handful of artists in India, who excelled in the art and science of art conservation.
“My passion for art was never stagnant. Even as practising as a mural artist, having worked at almost all the nook and cranny of this State, I always craved to do something more, something different. My foray into the art of conservation was the result of this craving,” Jiju, as he is fondly being called by his friends, reminisced.
Jiju kick-started his art conservation projects in 2003 with the mural works at Ananthapuram temple in Kasargod. The mural art inside the Sanctum Sanctorum had almost faded and the temple authority wanted to renovate. Jiju, who was trained in mural art at Guruvayur Devaswom Chumar Chitra Padana Kendram, took up the challenging work as he knew it was the apt job to test his expertise in the art.
As if disclaimers on parental guidance, characters being fictitious, the dangers of smoking, tobacco abuse and liquor consumption were not enough in films, filmmakers will have to add another one to the list. An NGO, based in Trivandrum has recently filed a petition before the State Human Rights Commission, to exhort filmmakers to make a disclaimer warning that, “Violence against women is punishable ” while scenes of women being the victim of any kind of violence is shown in the screen.
Shefin Kowdiar, President of Royal Kowdiar Protection Forum says, “This petition is all about bringing awareness to the people, who always argue for their rights, but they don’t care about their duties.” Shefin is a human right activist who has brought both social and civic issues to the attention of the concerned authorities. He believes that this campaign will help bring awareness to people regarding this issue.
He further added that, “There will always be people who will be against this petition, but we do it because it is our duty.”
Writer Sree Parvathy is set to launch her new book Meenukal Chumbikunnu at Children’s Park theatre near Marine drive in Kochi on Sunday 14th May, 2017.
The novel builds on the foundation laid by Madhavi Kutty and V. T. Nandhakumar on the topic of same sex love.
“I took inspiration from the experiences of the people around me and it gave me courage to write the book,” says Parvathy. In her words, the book goes deeper than simply portraying the physical aspect of a lesbian relationship. “I have tried to incorporate the thoughts, fears and above all the love of a homosexual couple in the novel,” she added.
The Brij Mohan Anand Foundation and Jana Natya Manch have joined hands to organise a weekend of street plays, a derivative of the exhibition Dissent and Discourse: the Art and Politics of Rebel Artist Brij Mohan Anand (1928-1986), on the many faces of dissent and its significance in public discourse, creativity, and progress. Two plays focusing on the rights of the workers and violence on women are scheduled to be enacted in Subhash Park, Marine Drive and various parts of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, which include some of the venues of the ongoing edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
The exhibition that is running as a collateral project to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale comprises artworks of Brij Mohan, a rebellious modern painter and illustrator. His works depicted his protest on capitalism, neo-imperialism and nuclear warfare, the commercialisation of art and culture, sexual inequality, etc.
Jan Natya Manch, popularly known as Janam, is one of the oldest street theatre groups in Delhi. Janam is considered to be a pioneer of the street theatre movement in India and is known particularly for its artistic and political innovation along with close collaborations with grassroots organisations including trade unions, women’s support groups, and student organisations. Two plays, Yeh Bhi Hinsa Hai (The Faces of Violence) and, Yeh Hum Kyun Sahein (Enough is Enough), both in Hindi will be played on January 28-29 at six different venues in eight slots.
The breathtaking beauty of Kerala has attracted travelers and visitors from across the world since time immemorial. The aromatic spices attracted the Portuguese, who later established trade relations and took these spices to their country. Ayurveda has become a world-renowned branch of medicine. Kalaripayattu, which is considered as the world’s first form of martial arts, also originated in Kerala. It is the blend of the lush green landscapes, diverse and opulent culture, and the alluring tradition that has given Kerala the title of ‘God’s Own Country’.
Kerala is also the land that has produced some unique and intricate forms of performing arts that have found admirers in all parts of the world. These art forms have the distinct signature of the culture that Kerala follows and effortlessly gels with the customs and traditions of Malayalees. Perhaps the most important and vibrant art form that originated in the State is Kathakali. This classical art form, which evolved in the 17th century, has acquired a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the thickest make-up in an art.
The detailed enacting of ancient epics and mythology through a dance-drama performance has lifted Kathakali into a position where it has managed to attract different sections of admirers. Kerala Kalamandalam is very important in this context. The institution has been imparting training in the major art forms of Kerala like Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Thullal, Mohiniyattam, etc. purely in the traditional way that these art forms need to be taught. That is one of the reasons why Kalamandalam still adheres to the ancient Gurukul system. Kalamandalam has also produced some extremely talented and ace Kathakali artistes who have not only spread the charisma of Kathakali in India, but have also represented India globally.
Drawing inspiration from the vibrant hues of Hindu mythology and folklore, Smitha Menon aka Tina has rendered inexplicable beauty through her paintings. She has recreated the characters from mythological stories that have become a part of the lives of many. These stories that we happily heard from our grandmothers not only left us fascinated but also provided us with great examples of moral science.
Tina, who is also greatly inspired by these stories and folklore, has given life to her perception of characters through an exhibition ‘Upakatha’, which according to her means, short story or part of a larger narrative.
“The exhibition is a collection of paintings of characters and stories from Indian mythology and folklore. I read books mostly based on Indian mythology and sometimes while I’m reading, certain situations and characters get carved into my brain and I have to paint them the way I envision them. This is my version,” says Tina.