40 works on historical figures, events commissioned by Archives Department
The Archives Department is turning to paintings to create awareness of significant events and people in the State’s history. It has entrusted the Vasthuvidya Gurukulam at Pathanamthitta with preparing 40 mural paintings.
This is the first time that Kerala murals, which traditionally are based on the Puranas or the Dhyanaslokas, will depict historical figures such as Sree Narayana Guru, Pazhassi Raja, Arakkal Beevi, or Velu Thampi Dalawa, says Suresh Muthukulam, head of the mural department at the Gurukulam.
Unlike traditional murals where the characters are drawn from imagination, the historical figures in these murals are recognisable and this comes with its own limitations and resultant challenges, he says. “Portraits can be seen in Rajasthan miniatures, but in ancient Kerala murals, no historical figures are seen; only deities,” Mr. Muthukulam says.
The paintings include events such as Vaikom Satyagraha, Aruvippuram ‘prathishtha,’ Kundara Proclamation, and Temple Entry Proclamation besides the Salt Satyagraha. Cultural festivals such as the Kalpathy car festival and Padayani too will be depicted.
On Bison panels
Only natural dyes such as vegetable and mineral pigments are being used for these paintings so that they do not fade with time. The murals, though, are not being done on walls but on Bison panels, a combination of cement and wood, developed by the late Mammiyoor Krishnan Kutty Nair, Mr. Muthukulam’s guru. The boards are coated with lime and tender coconut extract to achieve a wall-like effect before the painting gets under way. The boards can also be moved so that even if the structures where the murals are housed start feeling the effects of time, the murals remain intact for posterity.
40 days for a painting
A team of artists led by Mr. Muthukulam is executing the murals. Twenty-odd paintings have been completed. It takes up to 40 days to complete a painting.
T.K. Karunadas, executive director, Vasthuvidya Gurukulam, said social, cultural and political events would fiigure in the paintings. The aim was to complete them by summer. The project was an example of the evolution of murals from a traditional art to one that covered social, political, and contemporary issues, he said.