Film on solitary weaver wins global prize

P. Prabhavathi weaves a Kora grass mat in Killimangalam in Kerala. —PHOTO: K.K. MUSTAFAH

P. Prabhavathi weaves a Kora grass mat in Killimangalam in Kerala. —PHOTO: K.K. MUSTAFAH  

Two school students tell the story of Prabhavathi who makes grass mats in a Kerala village.

When she was married at 18 and went to live in Killimangalam village, P. Prabhavathi had no clue that she would one day become the sole weaver to uphold the village’s tradition of weaving Kora grass mats.

Now aged 52, Prabhavathi is the subject of a documentary film Magic Weavers of Killimangalam, which has won a prize at the ‘Global Folklorist Challenge’. The competition was organised by Cricket Media, an education company, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution in the U.S.

Produced by Vayali, a folklore collective based in Arangottukara, Thrissur, the film is directed by Bhagyanath and evolves through the eyes of school students Sruthika S.R. and Ashitha P.H., who try to understand the village’s legacy through the lone surviving weaver.

Exemplary work

The jury at Smithsonian termed the students’ entry, which competed in the 14 – 18 years category, “exemplary and standing out from submissions around the world”.

Says Ms. Prabhavathi, “It is indeed a big recognition. I am clueless about the fate of the mats once I stop engaging in weaving. But Vayali’s efforts have helped propagate the legacy the world over. Now there is huge demand for the Killimangalam grass mats that has ayurvedic medicinal values.” The mats are a part of the cultural heritage of the Kurava community, which occupied the shores of the river Bharathapuzha near Shoranur in Kerala.

“My husband belongs to Killimangalam and so I reached here after marriage. I learnt the Kurava style of weaving and became fully engrossed in the profession. I am an outsider to the Kurava community and their traditional style of weaving but I was very interested,” she adds.

Ms. Prabhavathi is presently the president of the Killimangalam Pulpaya Neythu Sahakarana Sanghom, a society of weavers.

Shortage of raw material

All the Kurava weavers gave up their trade because of poor financial returns and shortage of raw material. The grass used for making the mats turned scare due to large-scale encroachments on the Bharathapuzha.

“The last weaver from the Kurava community was U. Chami, who stopped weaving at the age of 72. Now, I am the only one weaving the mats,” she says. The Killimangalam mats scaled new heights in 2006 when the UNESCO awarded its seal of excellence to the Kora grass mats produced here.

Vinod Nambiar of the Vayali Folklore Group says the film was part of its efforts to document the rich traditions of villages located close to Bharathapuzha.

Efforts are now on to train youngsters in the weaving profession, he adds.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 2:44:56 AM |

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