Sowing seeds of artistry with Organic Theatre

Kadamban Moothan, the mascot of Organic Theatre, handing over a torch to residents of St. Joseph Boy’s Hostel at Koonammavu, marking the launch of the theatre alongside Pokkali farming.

Kadamban Moothan, the mascot of Organic Theatre, handing over a torch to residents of St. Joseph Boy’s Hostel at Koonammavu, marking the launch of the theatre alongside Pokkali farming.

As Pokkali farming by the residents of St. Joseph Boys’ Hostel at Koonammavu near North Paravur gains momentum for the next three months, evolving alongside will be a play taking inspiration from the local folklores, indigenous art forms and tales while also drawing in the performing talents among the local farming community.

Sowing the seeds of organic artistry will be a thatched Organic Theatre set up by the side of the Pokkali farms where the play will take a life of its own during the breaks between farming culminating with its staging on the day of harvesting.

Organic Theatre was a concept launched by WIWA (Wide Inspiration Wide Aspiration), a cultural development organisation that aims at promoting a holistic lifestyle coupling environment-friendly life with local art forms, as a pilot project for NABARD while reviving farming in 2.50 acres of fallow land in the border village of Vellarada in Thiruvananthapuram in 2015.

The mascot

“We started off by initiating discussions with the local farming community over the selection of the best suited crop for the land. The discussions led to a throwback into the tribal past of the area and their indigenous art forms effectively converting a thatched shed originally set up along the centre of the plot for storing the crops and equipment into an Organic Theatre. In the process was also created Kadamban Moothan, a character portrayed as a saviour of farmers and rooted in tribal legacy, which had since then become the mascot of Organic Theatre,” said Sudheer S.N, the award-winning director of Organic Theatre.

Kadamban Moothan made the stage debut at the end of farming in Vellarada in a play based on a fable about two mountains shared by the local farming elders.

The Organic Theatre next travelled to Chenkal panchayat in Thiruvananthapuram as it was turned into a fallow land-less panchayat in 2017-18. Shortly thereafter, the tribal department approached WIWA for reviving the cultural and farming legacy of five different tribal communities in Idukki considering the impact of Organic Theatre in attracting the tribespeople.

“We staged five different plays in the languages of each community by blending their cultural legacy with their farming methods and lifestyle,” said Mr. Sudheer.

Therapy for children

Impressed, the Social Justice department introduced a therapy based on Organic Theatre for the child abuse victims in a shelter home in Venjaramoodu in 2018-19. A theatre was set up along the 25 cents where 50-odd inmates carried out farming. Children from various places across the State were inspired to share their local art forms and their talents were drawn out, which went on to help improve their personality and holistic capacity.

After the COVID-induced hiatus shortly after it was recommended for two schools, Mr. Sudheer won the State Agriculture department’s award for best documentary for his work based on Organic Theatre last year.

The Organic Theatre set up along the Pokkali farms, spread over 25 acres, in Koonammavu is the first initiative since the pandemic followed by one in Cherthala South in the Agriculture Minister’s own constituency on June 19. “The local farming community (in Koonammavu) has already selected the talents among them for the theatre. The selection will be finalised shortly once we conduct an orientation session followed by an audition of sorts. There is no specific limit to the number of persons associated with the project on and off the stage,” said Mr. Sudheer.

The theatre could either be roofed or open depending on the climate. One thing, however, remains non-negotiable; performers will always have their feet touching the soil beneath with no stage to rupture that organic connection.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 9:14:55 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/sowing-seeds-of-artistry-with-organic-theatre/article65533091.ece