Thank you Kerela

Our shadow puppet making workshop with the Pullavar family is one that I could go back to several times in my life and still feel uncertain...

Our shadow puppet making workshop with the Pullavar family is one that I could go back to several times in my life and still feel uncertain that I've learnt enough. Speaking from a traveller's perspective, every experience from trying a new flavour everyday, dips in the pool, 800 year old deerskin puppets, jammed bus rides, bathing elephants, fascinating folk dances, eerie evacuated houses to tying lungis, having all our needs met and sharing so many songs and laughs, our trip could easily translate into "The Impromptu and Unexpected Kerela Guide" guide.

As a student, I feel fortunate that I was in the company of so many people I could learn from- faculty, the Pullavar household and my classmates. We had kept our usual routine on hold and put all our efforts into making this a super- productive and succesful workshop.

In terms of what I'm taking away from the overall experience is an understanding of the lifestyle and attitude of an artist. Mr. Ram Chandra Pullavar is aware that it is difficult to dedicate an entire lifetime to a single artform, yet he persists in this pursuit. He let us into his workshop and showed us all aspects of Thol Paava Kothu with no hesitation.  I respect and admire how his family keep their traditions alive, never letting them stagnate and always finding ways to remix them without losing the essence of it. What I also take away is a precious group experience of putting prejudice and (most gadgets) aside and seeing how beautiful the results of embracing the unexpected can be.

What I learnt about Thol Paava Koothu is how multi-dimensional the art form is and the effort it takes to keep up with the practice of redefining it with changing times. It involves art, craft, performance, learning, teaching, merchandising, travel and networking, studying representation and symbolism and most importantly respecting it as a means of worship. The persistence of the Pullavar family and their outlook for this artform is remarkable, even though they experience days without a temple audience. They put a collective effort every day of carrying forward a 2000 year old legacy because they consider it their responsibility as much as their profession. As an artist Mr. Pullavar is  keen on experimenting with new techniques and open to conforming it to 20 minute performances.We also learnt a great deal about the tools and the craft of making leather puppets and how they differ in various regions. It would be great to learn more about the performance itself and to see Thol Paava Kothu in the context of the temple setting.

I really hope to revisit one day to see the artform prosper and be discovered and showcased with the pride and respect it deserves. Till then I am grateful to our group and the Pullavar family for the most amazing trip where learning was effortless and living was blissful.

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