At Biennale Workshop, Kids Listen to and Narrate Stories; Sketch Pertinent Images

For Hariprasad R, a painter involved with public art projects, storytelling is not just a way to boost the imagination of children. It is a great way to connect the little ones with the society by reminding them about their surroundings, history and traditions, according to the artist who led a multi-faceted workshop at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

The 31-year-old artist deeply regrets oral traditions being replaced by technology-driven narratives such as animation and videos, so he trains children to render tales and reproduce the gist of the stories as visuals. When the three-day event organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation concluded earlier this week, the participants “underwent a huge transformation in their skills of grasping and expressing”, says Hariprasad.

Hariprasad has, therefore, sought the help of expert storytellers from various parts of Kerala who can capture the imagination of children with local myths, histories and traditions. “We had more than half-a-dozen such men and women,” says the artist, who lives in Kochi and is originally from Ponkunnam in Kottayam district. “We facilitated children, too, to narrate stories. Expectedly, many of them were good at it.”

At Hariprasad’s workshop held between January 11-13 on ‘Exploring Art Making Through Storytelling, Art Sculpture, Installation and Performance’, the children at the art room in the biennale venue of Cabral Yard earned “better awareness about their socio-economic milieu and a clearer idea of their own history”. Around 40 students from schools in nearby Mattancherry and Calvathy areas were among the workshop’s participants, including elders.

The trainees were given tips on how to draw and colour using chalk, charcoal, clay and natural pigments (such as juices of leaves and flowers) on surfaces such as paper and cloth. Much of it would come from what occurred in the kids’ mind after listening to the stories narrated by elders.

Singer Ibrahim Thuruuthil, who is a resident of West Kochi, was among the members narrating stories. Thus came up description of a local myth called ‘Kappiri Muthappan’ — the cigar-smoking Black who guards a treasure.

Hariprasad is not new to KBF’s talent-grooming programme called ABC (Art By Children) under which the workshop was organised. An MA from fine arts from the Hyderabad Central University, he had participated in the 2016 biennale edition of the ABC, holding interactive sessions in 100-odd schools across the state. Hariprasad graduated from the Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts, Mavelikkara in south-central Kerala

This time, when invited for a different task, the artist explored ways on blending the techniques of storytelling and image-making. “We dug out the old narrations belonging to various lands far and near,” reveals Hariprasad.

In fact, the artist has done a similar workshop in Gothuruthu, 40 km north of Kochi, last September in the aftermath of the floods that had ravaged the low-lying coastal area in Ernakulam district.“There, local storytellers spoke on past incidents, fiction, local myths. Based on them, children came out with images,” he recalls. “We developed them and converted them into books in two volumes. The work was called ‘Pralayamthannabhagyam’ (The Fortune The Floods Gifted).

The ABC is to soon make such an effort, reveals its head Blaise Joseph. “There is an inseparable relation between storytelling and image-making,” notes the master from MS University, Baroda. “Narration is not a static thing; it evolves. There will always be a difference when you repeat a story.”


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