The build-up to the maiden Kochi-Muziris Biennale beginning December 12 gathered momentum with the Minister of Culture K.C. Joseph launching work on a sculpture on Chinnathampi Annavi, who founded Chavittunatakam, at a landmark function at Gothuruthu, near North Paravur on Sunday.

Annavi’s statue would be the first work of art in a public space done in connection with the biennale, billed to bring about a confluence of local heritage and contemporary international art.

The cement sculpture done by a team led by Thrissur-based sculptor Anto K. George on the Holy Cross Church premises abutting the backwaters at Kadalvathuruthu would be a fitting tribute to the maestro who popularised Chavittunatakam, which evolved during Portuguese rule in the 16th century with a mix of elements from European art forms and Kerala’s traditional performance arts.

“We have no document to refer to nor any portraits of the maestro, but there are so many legends about him which will form the basis of our work,” Mr. George told The Hindu.

Mr. George would conjure up the image of Chinnathampi as Charlemagne in the most popular Chavittunatakam play, ‘Karalman Charitham’ (The story of Charlemagne). “We will portray him as a warrior as he would have looked like in the play,” he said.

Kottapuram Diocese Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Karikkassery blessed the making of the sculpture. Mr. Joseph, who termed the event as an unofficial opening of the biennale, said that the three-month art event would be an historical landmark in the art history of the State. He said it would be the State’s window to the international art scene. “We have a strong but forgotten history and the biennale will help us resurrect it. It is an attempt to give a fresh lease of life to sidelined art forms like the Chavittunatakam,” he said, adding the biennale team was able to survive the smear campaign that had initially put the venture on the backfoot. He also assured the biennale organisers the State’s whole-hearted support.

V.D. Satheesan, MLA, who presided, said that the biennale would catapult Chavittunatakam into the international art world. While Chinnathampi’s statue would be ready at Kadalvathuruthu, construction of a park and a food court would be launched at Gothuruthu in November, facilitating tourists to watch Chavittunatakam performances in the erstwhile Muziris region, he said.

Hibi Eden, MLA, said the sculpture project unravelled the people-friendly face of the biennale, as it brought rural artists and native art forms under its ambit.

Later in the day, Mr. Joseph, accompanied by Mayor Tony Chammany, Dominic Presentation, MLA, and Biennale Foundation President Bose Krishnamachari visited prominent exhibition sites of the biennale in Fort Kochi such as the Aspin Wall and Pepper House.

India’s maiden biennale is slated to commence on 12-12-12 with more than 80 artists from over 30 countries participating in it.

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