Art A 13-day international mural painters’ camp in Kottayam gifted the town with many works of art. Sunil Naliyath

An aspect that best describes the character of a city can be found on its walls. And if one is to be navigated by this statement, then Kottayam is fast turning out to be the most aesthetically done destination in Kerala, thanks to an international mural camp hosted by Kerala Lalithakala Akademi. The 13-day international mural painters’ camp in Kottayam that got under way on May 13 painted the city of letters and latex with innumerable works of art. An assortment of murals, both traditional and contemporary, from India and several other nations are being depicted on as many as 12 public places in Kottayam.

The murals depict works from themes such as nature, mythology, folklore, religion and romance in all its grandeur and vividly represent almost all the prominent styles prevalent in India and abroad. This is perhaps for the first time that an international painters’ camp is being organised by Kerala Lalithakala Akademi. While almost all of the Indian artists have drawn inspiration from Indian folklore, mythology and legends, those from other countries such as South Korea, Japan, Germany and Canada chose contemporary themes. With around 250 artists, students and delegates participating, this is said to be one of the biggest art camps held in Kerala in recent years.

“When it comes to art and culture, Kottayam is a much misinterpreted place but with this international mural camp, we are rendering a cultural shock to those who have largely remained skeptical,” says K.A. Francis, Chairman of the Akademi. Incidentally, Kottayam is a place with the highest number of murals in the state, he says. He also points out that the city administration had taken a keen interest in hosting the camp and had earmarked all major landmarks in Kottayam, including Civil Station, for the murals. The camp was aptly augmented by seminars and cultural programmes on almost on all days of the event.

Sara Guberti, a renowned mosaic mural artist from Italy, has expresed her artistic sensibilities on the walls of district hospital while Jennifer Macklem from Canada and Nele Martens from Germany are interpreting contemporary themes by portraying motifs of the itinerant world through cement murals. The civil station, district hospital, churches, temples, railway station and press club, to name a few, are some of the public places that have been adorned with murals.

Famed Indian artists such as Nathulal Varma and K.P. Soman are also attending the camp.

Kottayam will join the ranks of Jaipur and Kolkata, the cities that have a sizable works of art displayed in public places. According to the organisers of the event, the murals can also enhance the tourism potential of the region in a big way. However, the real challenge lies in its preservation as most works are showcased at public spaces. “We have already taken up the issue with the local administration and they have assured all possible support for protecting the murals from being damaged,” remarks K.U. Krishnakumar, chief coordinator of the camp.