Friday, April 19, 2013

befitting memorial to Chavittunatakam exponent

He has been sweating profusely under the scorching sun for the past three months in Gothuruthu to see his dream come true. Anto George, an artist from Thrissur is busy sculpting the statue of ‘Chinnathampi Annavi, the proponent of Chavittunatakam in Kerala.

 He has taken up a huge responsibility as it is for the first time that a face is being given to the legend. “It can be regarded as a historical monument. A 11-foot-tall statue of an exponent of Chavittunatakam is being built for the first time. My responsibility is to give him a face,” he says. It was his association with the organisers of Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation that gave him the golden opportunity to pursue his dream.

 Chinnathampi Annavi is being depicted in his glittering robes holding a cross with a curve and ivy spiraling around it. The statue stands on a pedestal.

“It is based on the medieval Christian myth which says that the zeal of Chinnathampi Annavi was so intense that the cross started embracing him while he was performing the art. I am designing the statue as if the cross were to embrace him. The climbing ivy suggests the entanglement of good and evil,” Anto says. Regarding the face of Chinnathampi Annavi, he says that the statue will bear the face of Charlemagne, the Roman Emperor whose story, the proponent propagated.

 “Historically speaking I did not have enough materials to support me in this direction. It is still a matter of dispute whether he belonged to Kerala or Tamil Nadu. Some are of the opinion that he is a Portuguese who came here and became a hermit and later took up the proselytising activities through a newly created art form ‘Chavittunatakam’. Apart from that as the legend is always associated with ‘Karalmanscharitham’ (story of Charlemagne), I decided to give him his face,” he says.

 Anto is being assisted by Sunil Kumar, Rajeev Basheer and Shibi. “My attempt is to make a contemporary statue, a  sharp deviation from the conventional,” he says.

  Chavittunatakam experienced a lull for a prolonged period. Of late, it is slowly treading the path of revival. With the country’s first Biennale, the cosmopolitan character of Kochi is also resurrecting. “ At this juncture, it would be incomplete if the name of Chinnathampi Annavi is omitted,” says the artist. Anto hopes to complete the statue before monsoon. “The work is moving at a slow pace. We could have presented it before the Biennale ended but  we want it to be as perfect as possible,” he says.

published in The New Indian Express

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