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Art and the earth

The terracotta murals blend perfectly with the environs of the Shilpa Kala Vedika. The traditional craft of pottery has been contemporarised and effectively integrated into the architecture.

TREE TO BEHOLD: One of the largest murals.

THE MASSIVE terracotta mural in the foyer of the Shilpa Kala Vedika catches your eye on entering the portals of the auditorium. This is just one of the three murals in the complex designed by K.B. Jinan. For the visitors entering from the side there are two large ones - a Nataraja almost atop the building and a huge tree spreading its branches on the walls. In Jinan's hands, a humble material - terracotta- metamorphoses into something artistic.Over the years, Jinan has sensitised potters of Aruvacode to their own craft. His creation is Kumbham - where terracotta is turned into aesthetic and functional products. "A mural itself is not part of pottery and we brought in the new dimension," says Jinan.Jinan has succeeded in integrating craft into architecture. The themes chosen are in tune with the environs. The entrance mural deals with the Sankranti celebrations. `The idea was to do something about one of the main events in Telugu culture," says Jinan, who envisaged the almost 30 ft x 20 ft mural. The mural is like a jigsaw puzzle, at least for the potters who made tile-by-tile and numbered each before mounting them on the wall. The festival symbol, the cow, is woven into a bucolic backdrop including children drawing the muggu (rangoli). Jinan explains the process: "the work was divided into three or four parts and the clay for one part was rolled. Each tile with the design was cut and burnished and fired. A second firing was done for those tiles where dark red or black had to be obtained. About 4-5 months were spent in making and mounting the mural comprising almost 6000 tiles. The potters have learnt the craft and are adept in mounting too and I do not have to be around after the first stage. The tiles were manufactured in Kerala and transported to Shilparamam where about 30 craftsmen lived for a few months to do the installation."

The most impressive mural is the tree on one of the side walls. It is perhaps one of the biggest murals in the world. "When they showed me a wall almost 120 feet wide and about 70-80 feet high I thought of making a pipal tree as for such a scale you need something really huge," says Jinan. About 15 people spent 10 months on this mural where each leaf is an independent tile.

The Lord of Dance (Nataraja) had to figure in such a cultural complex. This mural measures about 20ft x 20 ft and surrounding the main icon are other subsidiary representations of music and dance.

All the murals are cent per cent eco-friendly with no artificial colouring of any sort. With the aid of natural firing techniques and control over smoking the potters are able to impart the various hues.

Those interested in getting murals for homes and offices can write to K.B. Jinan, Kumbham, Aruvacode, Nilambur, Kerala. 679329 (tel: 0493-221544, 221568. email:

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