by T P Venu
Cradled in the lap of nature and a stone’s throw from Kovalam, lies Vellar that is now a haven for cultural activities. Hidden for a long time, the area that is naturally endowed with flora and rich soil has been developed as a crafts village with all aesthetics. Now known as the Kerala Arts and Crafts Village (KACV) it is gaining popularity with each passing day.
Spread over 8.5 acres, the crafts village was developed in record time. A MoU between the Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society Ltd (ULCCS) and the Department of Tourism was signed on June 25, 2018, and the construction work was inaugurated by Kadakampally Surendran, the Minister for Tourism, Co-operative and Devaswom, on the very same day. The first phase was ready to open within 28 months.
Rameshan Paleri, Chairman, ULCCS says, “There is great potential for tourism and the craft village is strategically located. It will not only be a relief to visit the beautiful village but also buy exquisite handicrafts.” Echoing similar sentiment is Sreeprasad, Chief Operating Officer, KACV, he says, “The potential to increase the market for handicrafts is now much better with the opening of the craft village. More than 750 artists would be benefitted.
” The ULCCS invested Rs. 20 crores for the first phase of the project which is envisaged as a BOT project in the Government land on lease for 25 years.
“Tapping the possibilities of online marketing of handicraft products is needed.”
“The Government wants to promote tourism as an activity for the economic benefit of the common man.”
Vellar is within 10 kms limit of the state capital on the side of the National Highway bye pass 66, connecting Kovalam with the Trivandrum International Airport, Railway Station, the upcoming Vizhinjam International Port, the Trivandrum Technopark, the city and all other parts of Kerala and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu.
What to see at Vellar:
- Art and craft studios, emporium, art gallery, design strategy lab, handloom village, auditorium, pond, library-cum-reading area, festival court, game zones, cafeteria, restaurant and walkways
• More than 50 crafts are presented in 28 studios having facilities for production, display and sales What to see at Vellar
• National and international crafts
• Terracotta and ceramic ware
• Cane products, ornaments, decorative pieces
• Home and office furniture
• Clothes and textiles
• Curios, souvenirs, arte-facts
• Home utensils made of wood, bamboo, reed, palm leaves, screw pine, coconut husk and shell
The centre for art, culture and entertainment was conceived and implemented with multiple objectives ranging from resuscitation and nurturing handicraft skills and indigenous technologies, diversification of products, assurance of a decent life for the craftsmen by expanding the market.
Creative craft talent across the country present their wisdom through marvelous designs of fixed sculptures including 3D Holograms, Pattachitra painting of Bengal and Odisha, Kerala murals, the colourful paper quilling crafts having a long history from ancient Egypt.
Centuries old NettoorPetti, Glass and Stone Crafts, Dry Flower, creative articles made of paper to metal, Horn Carving, Hammock &Jewellery and Pooram Craft. The Wood Crafts range from furniture to Laminated Wooden Crafts and toys made out of teak, rose wood and white wood.
Kovalam Craft Village and Sargalaya are the only spots where one can buy Kerala’s traditional products having the status of Geographical Indication like AranmulaKannadi, Percussion Instruments of Peruvamba, Balaramapuram Handloom, Muttathara Wood Crafts and Sculptures and Screw Pine Products of Thazhava outside their places of origin.
These unique products are presented along with live demos of production offering the visitors a special opportunity to view all in a single place.
This, along with a few other plans, aim at the introduction of our rich tradition, not only of Kerala but also of the entire Nation, to the global market thereby increasing the sales of these products. The Handloom Village set up here introduces all types of weaving.
It also demonstrates the various stages of production, and traditional and modern practices and technologies including natural dying. One can see the various traditional weavingstyles of Chendamangalam, Balaramapuram, Kuthampully and Kannur.
A well-equipped design lab also functions here. Training and exhibitions in collaboration with the Department of Handloom are also planned targeting the expansion of the possibilities of handloom.
The Craft Village offers the visitors the opportunity to interact with the crafters and even to try a hand in the work. They can try their own design and to place order for a designer item at the studios. The organisers have the plan to introduce online platforms for the same in the future.
To avoid monotony and to encourage repeated visits to the village, novelty will be maintained by occasionally changing the designs and introducing new designs. The village is equipped with a pool of talents to realize all these goals.
It includes Gopi Master who was awarded with Padmashree for his contributions to Handloom, K.R. Mohanan who won the Shilpa Guru Award and many other national and state award winning artists all over India.
The project provides abetter life to more than 750 craftsmen. An annual international Art and Craft Biennale, based on fixed themes, including paintings, terracotta, handloom, sculptures and reed and bamboo products along with workshops.
Craft-Food Festivals and Art Festivals, all with individuality different from the typical fests, in April and September, are also there in the calendar. Introduction of an indigenous food or drink, specific to the village, is also under consideration.
The Art Gallery displaying paintings of selected artists will definitely be a good feast for the art lovers. The emporium of crafts and paintings of international standards that bring new avenues of marketing will be another centre of attraction. Spices Garden, Medicinal and Herbal Gardens and Butterfly Garden are other specialities.
Besides the Crafts, the Village will be a platform to introduce our rich heritage and culture to the foreign tourists through performances of various art forms like Theyyam, Padayani, Kathakali, Kolkkali, Thiruvathira, Puppetry and Kalarippayattu. During off-season, art forms from foreign countries will be performed for the natives.
The performances will be on Saturdays, Sundays and other holidays in the beginning, but will be conducted on a daily basis in the future. This platform will function as a cultural exchange hub of the State.
Similarly a Training Academy for Performing Arts is also in the plan which will be starting soon with short term workshops and training on music, dance and theatre. A Training Club of Games is also conceived which is expected to come out as the second stage of the present Gaming Zone, comprising facilities for various indoor and outdoor knowledge games and adventure games like archery, shooting and rock climbing.
Kerala Arts and Crafts Village envisages plans for expanding the market and effecting a qualitative improvement in the areas of arts and handicrafts through modern strategies and activities. One among these is to build up a permanent market through the cooperation of interior designers, fashion designers and architects at both State and National levels. Steps for customising products in tandem with the tastes of the customers and bringing limited edition products to the market are also taken.
Training for handicrafts
Workshops and training programmes engaging experienced teachers and experts in crafts designing and national camps and training for the budding artists under the leadership of renowned artists belonging to modern, traditional, folk and tribal strata also find a place in the project.
A Research and Study Centre capable of producing quality artists and designers in this sector is the ultimate aim of these activities. This will be achieved by enriching the talents of selected students who have successfully completed primary education in these areas through short-term and long-term courses and assuring opportunities for better employment.
Another major initiative to promote traditional arts and handicrafts is to chart a Kerala Heritage Tour, connecting all craft centres including the Sargalaya Village, to impart the experience of the centuriesold heritage of the land, through the National Water Way which begins right from Kovalam at the south end of the State to the north end. A Tour Package exclusive to the Kovalam Craft Village utilizing the hotel resort network is also under consideration.
A dream comes true
Prathapan who works on coconut husk craft is a master craftsman who has been at it for over three decades but was always in need for a place to work. Kerala Arts and Craft Village provided him space and now he is more content man.
He says, “I am extremely happy and thank KACV for providing space at the village. Here we can expect target customers and with Kerala tourism growing at fast speed. I am sure we artists can now lead a dignified life.”
Giving terracotta a new lease
With an aim to bring back terracotta and give its rightful place, KACV identified Shivaprakash and Shiva Prasad from Malapuram and Parasala to research and study the scope of terracotta.
Terracotta art has a rich history dating back to over 5,000 years and is derived from Italian word the ‘baked earth’.
Screw pine craft, anyone?
Traditional Screw Pine Art has its own charm. Using the leaves of screw pine, artists make a variety of products including wall hangings. Remani, is remarkable for his extra ordinary artistic skill in the field of screw pine crafts. Hailing from Thazhava in Kollam district she has more than 30 years of experience.
She found his market with kudumbasree melas. KACV is a new experience for her. She is also given training for newly appointed trainee at Kerala Arts and Craft Village. The reputation of ULCCS will catch more clients and it will help to share the tradition of Kerala arts. The studio provides visitors with the opportunity to interact closely with artists and participate in handicrafts.
Asha G Krishnan from Kottayamis adapt with paper and is experienced in graphic designing. Quilled paper craft, an Egyptian art is promoted by Kerala Arts and craft Village. To give a fillip to the craft, Asha has been given space to promote the craft.
Asha Studio at Kerala Arts and Craft Village is catching many eyeballs. The studio offers a live display of craftsmanship.