'Kumbhar' in Sanskrit means 'the one who creates'. You see 'Kumbhars' all over India. They create magic out of clay.They are potters of the country. Various reasons including droughts and the urge to travel led many 'Kumbhars' from Andhra Pradesh come and settle down on the banks of River Nila in Kerala several hundred years ago. Like many cultures that blessed the banks of this auspicious river, Kumbhars brought along their rich legends, folklore, skills, lifestyle, language and festivities to this river.
We take travellers from all backgrounds to interact with some of the few remaining potters' communities along the river. Travellers mostly leave exclaiming how magical the experience was! Some of them go into silence as if they are meditating, some of them request if they could try their hands on creating 'something' out of the clay. Once the wheel starts turning, and their hands feel the earth and water, many commented that they are touching the chords of their inner life. They are guided by the 'Kumbhars'- the creators.
The paradox of all this is how 'Kumbhars' are perceived in the Kerala society. 'Kushava' is how a potter is known in Malayalam and it's also used in our day to day life in quite a 'de-meaning' or derogatory way. As a kid, I remember being called a "Kushava" by relatives, when I used to do something really stupid. I am not a historian, nor do I have the knowledge to trace the history and perception of languages and colloquial usages. Wonder how such a beautiful word in Sankskrit meaning a creator, transformed into a derogatory 'Kushava' in Malayalam. Or at least the word 'Kushava' came to be understood.
What prompted to write this much is the news that one of the first potters that we engaged in the village of Arangottukkara stands a risk of not being able to use his hands as efficiently and skillfully as he could earlier. He had a stroke and left side of body including his arm and thumbs are finding it difficult to respond to his 'commands'. From a struggling potter to be someone who could earn a decent living out of local work orders and sustainable tourism initiatives, Gopalan potter has come a long way. However, the recent hospitalisation and lack of ability to work makes his future livelihood uncertain. The Blue Yonder along with it's partner Vayali Folklore Group in Arangottukkara within its constraints are supporting the artist by engaging him in running workshops where some of his relatives are guiding those wanting to learn the art and skill.
Rather than giving a donation or raise funds from well-wishers to support the artists, we are attempting to create an income generation for Gopalan and some other artists by providing them employment opportunities through sustainable tourism.
We are launching a series of 'skill based workshops' in River Nila to highlight the skills and creativity of artists like Gopalan. Please write /call us if you are interested.
Venue : Arangottukara village, Thrissur district in Kerala
Dates : 29-30 Jan 2011
Intake: max 10
Activities: learning workshops in pottery, bamboo weaving and indigenous hand-crafts.
Extra: One can also combine this as a weekend holiday that would include legend trails and folk expressions. Longer duration workshops are also possible.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | +91.80.4115.2218 or +91.98860.53286
posted by GP