‘Palavaka’ is not just an art and design studio; rather it is a collective to bring together artists and art lovers for building up a better base for art itself. Years back when I started this with the help of my friends and well wishers the idea was to provide a place where artists and art lovers could meet and practice their art forms. The name ‘Palavaka’ seemed appropriate. Palavaka in Malayalam means ‘miscellaneous’. In every list always, there will be this column: miscellaneous where we will be putting things that we cannot categorize. And this column will be having the maximum number of elements too. Here when I thought about starting a studio instead of writing every activity up on the board I decided to give it this name. Whatever work approached me after careful examination, I would decide whether I could do it or not.
The huge compound of our family house provided the stage for Palavaka. We used to conduct even at that time small art programs and exhibitions here in the campus itself. Later the Palavaka upgraded into a small art school for children as additional education after their school hours. The selection procedure we have here is in the reverse order; the children chose the class not the other way round. All the children who approach the school are admitted irrespective of their academic prowess. After a certain amount of time those who find themselves unsuited to the atmosphere will leave. This way it is ensured that only those who are in tune with the teaching process will stay. After a time, many of my students decide to take art or design as their profession. Now, the school and its students are an integral part of Palavaka.
The inauguration was done one year after the beginning of the studio in a unique fashion by famous art historian Vijayakumar Menon. We got bell peppers of three different colours (red, green and yellow). They were somewhat like the colours of a signal light: Go, slow and stop. All of us present stood in one closed circle and passed these three bell peppers from one person to the other like the old game of ‘passing the parcel’ starting from the inaugurator till it circled back to him. This way not only the chief guest but all who present were able to perform the inauguration ceremony. Later we cut these and made a salad which was the refreshment given for the program. I understand that in Africa a certain tribe has this tradition of taking into their tribe a newcomer by performing a similar ritual. They stand in a circle and pass the youngest baby in their tribe from one person to another and as the circle is completed they believe the person is then part of their tribe. Again it was a primitive culture of offering the hunted animal to the god and then to the whole tribe in a feast. The ritual we did here was somewhat all of these.
Every year we celebrate our annual days in an elaborate but different fashion. No two annual days are the same and every year there will be some surprise element for everybody to enjoy. Kids are given full freedom to do whatever they feel like doing. In addition to showing their paintings and sketches they get a chance to perform some very interesting experiments too. One of my students who was keen on vegetable gardening did a painting with her vegetable patch. There was one scare crow looking like a beautiful young girl and one huge panel painting depicting all the festivals in the world. This was done by the students using mural techniques. One student who wishes to become a chef in future even tried to do an edible painting using food stuff! One year we made huge spider’s web in the garden using twine and normal thread. Last year’s annual day we celebrated with the theme ‘Halloween’. The whole thing will be celebrated with music dance poetry or whatever the children feel like doing.
Akuppam was a unique ‘bomma kolu’ show we did during the ‘Navarathri’ season. An exhibition of dolls was done during this time. But all our dolls were of waste materials. Akuppam meaning ‘A/ Kuppam’ that is ‘not a waste’; the idea was to making the wastes not wastes. Same way we celebrated Christmas too making a X’mas tree out of waste materials. Theetta (Eat) is a small weekend food program – another project of Palavaka – where delicious Masala dosas are made to order by my mother in her own traditional way. In future we are planning to start a kitchen restaurant where all can eat in a nostalgic way in the kitchen itself as the food is being made.
We attract more and more like-minded people to us for all the offbeat activities we do here. Palavaka is not an institution; it is a collective of like-minded people who work for the betterment of the creative society. It is not the quantity but the quality which matters. The ultimate aim is to integrate my art, family, friends, students and ideology through Palavaka and that way have a holistic way of approaching art and life.