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Biennale Sights Bring Back Cheer in Artworks of Gothuruth Children

In Kochi
February 08, 2019

Five months ago, girls and boys of Gothuruth came up with dark and poignant images of their island in the aftermath of the August floods. This time, having visited the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, their artworks brimmed with the vibrancy and happiness typical of children in normal times.

After a good round of the exhibits at the main Aspinwall House venue of the festival, students from St Sebastian’s High School in Gothuruth, 40 km north of here, assembled at the Cabral Yard across the road in Fort Kochi on Thursday. Out they sat in the art room and began drawing and painting splendid visuals related to vignettes from the subcontinent’s biggest contemporary art event.

The talent-grooming space, simultaneously, exhibits the works of 27 students of classes 5 to 8 in the institution from Gothuruth, a culturally dynamic strip of land close to the Periyar which is Kerala’s longest river. The children have been encouraged by their teachers besides two art facilitators representing the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF).

Ajith Sreedharan and Jiji Ajith, who represent the KBF’s programme called Art By Children (ABC) for St Sebastian’s School, have been helping the students sharpen their talent and skills in making images. Today’s is the second of a series of art exhibitions by the students of this school over the past two months.

The art facilitators had given the children a broad outline of their proposed artwork by narrating to them a story based on the catastrophe during the last monsoons. It involved a fair share of fantasy: a large whale grounding alongside Gothuruth’s river and an ensuing dispute between people on either banks leading to the construction of a church.

The mission was to not only boost imagination among children, but also to help them know more about local culture, points out Blaise Joseph, who heads the ABC programme. Gothuruth, which is known as the birthplace of the Biblical dance-drama called Chavittu Natakam, is also called the ‘Island of Festivals’.

A similar workshop the KBF held at its Cabral Yard art room had introduced the students to one’s ecosystem. Organised in December, it featured a variety of activities such as gathering natural materials as inputs for making images, drawing pictures of the region’s flowers, plants, birds and animals, gathering memories of elders and creating illustrated story books as documentation of local history.

“Last time, we had very few of the students who created the works making it to the exhibition here at the Cabral Yard,” says Ajith. “This time, almost all of the student artists visited the biennale and their works exhibited at the art room.”

Students and teachers of St Sebastian’s also participated in a workshop the KBF organised for them in the art room where their works are being exhibited.