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Lokame Tharavadu
On view: Lokame Tharavadu, Alappuzha

Lokame Tharavadu: An art initiative surfing over the pandemic waves

Survival, the very word represents the inner urge in many of us in these troubled times. Be it the pandemic or the chaotic political landscape or the lingering signals of an approaching climate apocalypse, we are on the lookout for a way forward. This is the background when ‘Lokame Tharavadu’, the multi-venue, multi-artist exhibition opens its doors for the public, once again. Having taken birth in the pandemic era, this exhibition has seen multiple waves of openings and closures, parallel to the wave-like attack of the coronavirus and its mutant variants. Originally planned for an early-2020 opening, the show was hit by successive lockdowns. But, unlike many other ventures that withered in the pandemic heat, this first-of-its-kind art show has survived the mayhem, and is reopening for viewers this August 2021.

It may be ironic that the pandemic, which demands social distancing to stay safe, has cemented the philosophical idea of humans across the globe constituting one giant family; no society is spared by the virus and neither can they singularly escape from its clutches. As such, this new challenge demands a collective response. ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ assumes significance in this backdrop. The curator, Bose Krishnamachari has woven this contemporary art exhibition around the concept of home and surroundings. The title of this exhibition, that the world is one family, is drawn from a poem of celebrated Malayalam writer Vallathol Narayana Menon. The title carries multiple dimensions and is ever-relevant. As a society that sends its members around the world in search of livelihood opportunities, Kerala has made its presence felt in fields ranging from science and arts to politics and business. Like any professionals, artists from Kerala, too, have made cities across the world their new home. Rightly identifying this global presence of Malayalis, ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ brings as many as 267 Malayali artists from around the world together at two historic towns of Kerala — Alappuzha and Cochin — both having a chequered history of international trade and cultural exchanges.

On view: Lokame Tharavadu, Alappuzha

Organised by Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation in collaboration with Government of Kerala, this exhibition aims to support artists, many of them financially struggling due to lack of opportunities during the pandemic, through the sale of artworks. However well-intentioned they were, the organisers had a rough ride from the beginning. Schedules were drawn and redrawn several times, and more than once the show was opened for a few days and then closed due to the lockdown. In the last two years, uncertainty ruled over human planning, and this exhibition was not an exception. Apart from the Biennale Foundation and Kerala government, the participating artists,too, had invested considerable amounts to prepare their works for the exhibition. Going through a precarious financial position, many of them had pinned hope on the sale of their works at the show. In a double whammy to these artists, the show neither had a complete run nor had any substantial sales materialised. At the current juncture, crores of rupees, including public funds, face the threat of a washout. The only way out could be a full-scale opening of the show. Regular access to physical public spaces has become difficult while online public spaces increasingly fill this vacuum. In this background, ‘Lokame Tharavadu’, physically set at six distinct locations in two cities, may find it hard to turn a crowd puller. A fully functional virtual show running parallel to the physical exhibition could have compensated the dip in footfall and allowed the entry of ‘global Malayali’. But then, conducting an exhibition with limited resources is one thing and running a parallel high-quality virtual show is another. With the distant footsteps of a third wave echoing in the air, we are still far from confidently venturing out. Nonetheless, strict adherence to protocols can make a big initiative like ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ a successful model for society in general and artists in particular. In the end, we all have to survive, and for that we have to adapt.

On view: Exhibits at Lokame Tharavadu

By Joyel K Pious | Published on September 9, 2021

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