A different show of cartoons that amuse and is also self help therapy

Mr. Curly, the protagonist and the voice of renowned Australian cartoonist-poet, Michael Leunig, says in one of the works, about bathroom singers lending, “small voice to the everyday joy of the soul.” Michael's cartoons, poems, prayers give a big voice to the small things of life, things that are taken for granted and overlooked by a generation caught in tumultuous times.

The exhibition, ‘Celebrations- Appreciating The Little Things in Life,' held at the Lotus Club auditorium, delightfully invoked these very small things, and held up a mirror to the abandoned simple living, perhaps the cause of rampant mental malaise.

Brought in by MEHAC Foundation (Mental Health Care and Research Foundation) and CCA (Centre for Comic Arts) the group has judiciously used the popular medium of cartoons to address the complexity of mental illness. This show was first held to celebrate the World Mental Health Day and is curated by Sundar Ramanathaiyer and Jim Bridges, both cartoon researchers and collectors, “to help appreciate cartooning…and negotiate the depressing realities around.”

Michael interprets the dissonance in one's mind through plain drawings and simply worded poems, where Mr. Curly goes about casually proclaiming the truths in over 30 neatly and potently sketched works. The quivering pen line shapes out Curly in telling forms and exchanges. Michael's pet figures - the happy duck, crescent moon, trees, birds, animals, stars, Curly Flat, the bucolic landscape all narrate, coalescing wit and satire, the story of man who has moved away from simple living to a complicated web of fast life.

‘The Academy of Very Ancient Music' is a tree full of birdsong, an unnoticed truth. A frame with two chairs facing each other with a table in between is the solution to all confrontations, implying the power of negotiation between conflicting parties. It's a straight forward solution and perhaps the only one!

Live slowly, says the artist and watch the wonder, he reiterates through his work. Two characters stare into the night sky and find a twinkling starry pattern that reads-Here and Now. Carpe Diem, live the moment and seize the day, says Michael.

He draws and spells out the Prayer of Gratitude. Say it for the worms, the ladybirds, the invention of the wheelbarrow and the existence of the teapot.

In ‘Aromatherapies' he seeks the comforts in the familiar smells of fish and chips, of shoe polish, clean sheets and of the sweet heart, scents that one takes for granted.

In ‘Rare Parrot' spotted after 130 Years, Michael wittily satirises the media, himself being a part of the fraternity. Leunig contributes regularly to The Age (Melbourne) and earlier to The Sydney Morning Herald

“You have to go it alone,” he says in a work and states the realities like, ‘the tyranny of the inevitable' and the ‘moments of no consequence' are truths that have to be accepted.

It's no wonder that such self-help therapy in form of cartoons has found wide popularity. In a wonderful medium, funny and incisive, Michael shows man his foibles and also offers solutions. No wonder that he has been declared as one of hundred Australian Living Treasures by the National Trust of Australia in 1999.

The exhibition is indeed a self help show, a chicken soup for every new age individual.

Community psychiatry

Dr. Chitra Venkateswaran, Clinical Director, Mehac Foundation says that despite good mental health services in Kerala there is still a big need to improve and reach out to the community. Their methodology of “community psychiatry” is to be pro-active and work with local groups. Their efforts have seen success in many areas, especially in Muhamma where Mehac works along with the Panchayat. Ernakulam and Alappuzha districts lag in palliative care services. On the exhibition of cartoons Chitra said that Leunig is a cult figure and his cartoons deal with broad concepts of wellness. And though not directly related to psychic disorders, but the “little things” in life matter most. Mehac Foundation Contact no. 9947644500