Branching Out 2010 To Present Day
We began to expand our work and undertake exciting projects that took Kathakali into new areas of development. We examined the performing techniques of Kathakali, created a film and explored new ways of presenting Kathakali to make our work more accessible to western audiences.
We increased the number of exhibitions, created a set of Kathakali masks and explored the idea of identity through the We Are What We Wear Project, how traditions travel when people migrate and take their heritage with them as part of the Our Journey Project and how the similarities between the West Sussex Gypsies, the Downland Shepherds, the Sompting Morris dancers and Kathakali through the East Meets West project.
The language of Kathakali is based on an ancient 4,000 year old sign language called Mudras. To help our audiences understand this visual language Kalamandalam Vijayakumar created the first digital dictionary of Kathakali Mudras in the world.
Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar made Kathakali masks for the exhibition and we took Kathakali to the Isles of Scilly and other remote areas.
This year was the last time the great Padmasree Kalamanadalam Gopi led the company taking Kathakali to England, Scotland and Wales visiting rural areas, major cities and urban areas. His remarkable skill flooded the stage with the magestic power of Kathakali. 50 perfromances and 100 workshops enabled thousands of people to expereince kathakali at its best.
We started to focus more on exhibitions that featured a theme. Working with Redbridge Museum, Ilford, Wanstead High School, ASnet, London and MAUK we created a project that explored the idea of We Are What We Wear. As Kathakali characters can be identified by the costumes they wear we expanded that concept to include how the clothes we wear reflect our identity, history and heritage. The workshops concluded a 3 month exhibition at Redbridge Museum.
We did more workshops and inspired by the previous project we started to consider how traditions travel when people migrate and take them with them featuring how Kathakali arrived in the UK. This project was called Our Journey and kindly funded by the Heritage lottery Fund. Working with the Discovery Centre, Winchester City Council, local artists and schools we explored the idea of migration through workshops, training and demonstrations we exposed Kathakali to thousands of people.
This was a massive year with the Our Journey concluding with and Exhibition at the Discovery Centre joined by a full company Kathakali UK Tour kindly supported by the Arts Council of England and The Arts Council of Scotland. The exhibition was only on show for 23 days but over 2,000 people came to see the display.
We brought top artists from Kerala to perform Kathakali in England, Wales and Scotland. In Scotland we designed a music workshop based on the songs of the boat people who transported the military along the rivers in times of war. At the end the people involved in the workshop and the musicians went on a canoe on the loch and chanted the same rhythm to give the group an expereince of how the music would have been played originally.
Another year preparing a heritage project for Worthing museum this time incorporating a comparative study between Kathakali, The Downland Shepherds, The Gypsy Community and the Morris Dancers called East Meets West - kindly supported by the Heritage lottery fund. This was such an enjoyable project getting to know the different traditions resulting in a vibrant project full of surprises. Each tradition had a Day in the Museum and many of the people wore traditional clothing. Dances, songs, basket making and a Gypsy Caravan made this project a great success.
This year incorporated our education work and a full company Kathakalu UK Tour kindly supported by the Arts Council of England and The Arts Council of Scotland.
The visit to Scotland took Kathakali into small rural areas such as Lochgoilhead. The tour visited the beautiful Isles of Scilly and major cities such as London, Southampton and Bristol.
We did a colaboration with the Tashi Lumpo Monks including a Kalamuzhuthu - temple powder painting, a destruction ceremony and performances.
The audiences were giving standing ovations at every show making a break through in making Kathakali accessible.
A fantastic Tour ending at WOMAD with over 5,000 people cheering!
Another heritage project inspired by East Meets West where we created a heritage project based on Kathakali and Carnival.
Working with Southampton City Art Gallery, Dimbola Museum and galleries, Isle of Wight and New Carnival Company we explored the idea of the strength required by the Kathakali artists and the slaves of the Caribbean to survive the horrific torture to retain their heritage. This was a very moving project as the terrible life that the slaves and early Kathakali artists faced. It is only because of their power to overcome hardship that Carnival and Kathakali survived. The year was spend preparing the costumes, researching the history and providing workshops in the local community.
This was a busy year with the heritage project and a full company Kathakali Tour kindly funded by the Arts Council of England and The Arts Council of Wales.
The exhibition was shown at Southampton City Art gallery and The Dimbola Museum and Galleries with Open days featuring Kathakali and India, The Caribbean and Carnival attended by thousands of people.
The tour went to Wales and England visiting rural areas, towns and cities again with standing ovations at virtually every performance.
We were finally reaching our audiences and creating a link between Kathakali and the people coming to see our work.
This year featured a project called "Don`t Throw Me Away", kindly funded by the hertage lottery Fund, exploring the history of Kathakali and Bharathanatyam costumes and their temple origin.
It is a rare chance to learn about the costumes, what they represent, what materials are used, how they have changed over time and how clothing and costumes retain our identity.
Objects come in and out of fashion. We hope to inspire people to value heritage, consider what they are throwing away and appreciate that what they have today will eventually be our history.
We delivered our “Don`t Throw Me Away “ heritage project kindly supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It was a pleasure to install an exhibition of Kathakali and Bharatanatyam costumes, run workshops, training and performances in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Maritime Museum, MAUK and local schools taking Kathakali and Bharatanatyam into the heart of world culture and education.
Bhagya Lakshmi and her students, Arunima Kumar and Kia Kotti Kali group joined Kalamandalam Vijayakumar to celebrate the traditions of South India.
We performed in the temples of Kerala to complete an exciting and stimulating year.
2020 - 2021
Like everyone else we were hit by the Coronavirus literally overnight and all our projects were cancelled or postponed. Shocked as the world was overtaken by a virus we could not see or detect left us in a state of uncertainty. Our planned heritage project based at the Museum of Croydon called “Behind the Costume” and kindly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund had to be put on hold.
We may be in lockdown but thanks to the funding from the Arts Council of England we are able to prepare new exciting work for when artists and communities can work together again. Something to look forward to and celebrate.
Kathakai actor, Kalamandalam Vijayakumar, has created the first interactive Dictionary of Kathakali Sign Language in the world and is providing Lessons on line free of charge. To access and learn this language please click on https://www.kathakalimudras.com