Keralan face-painting and handicraft workshop at RWMF

By Patricia Hului
@pattbpseeds
 
 

FACE PAINTING IS NOT something you see every day here in Malaysia. Behind the jar of paint, a stroke of brush and the vibrant colours on skin; face painting could tell you a story of a people, their culture and their beliefs.

 

How a ‘thyam ‘artist looks in full costume. A ‘thyam’ artist made a surprise appearance during the drum circle on the last day of RWMF.

How a ‘thyam’ artist looks in full costume. A ‘thyam’ artist made a surprise appearance during the drum circle on the last day of RWMF.

 

At the ‘Chehera Chitra’ workshop given by the Karinthalakoottam from Kerala, South India during the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), members of Karinthalakoottam painted the faces some of the workshop attendees all while explaining the culture behind face painting.

 

Arup Roy, the manager of Karinthalakoottam said that the face painting was part of the ‘Thyam’ dance where ‘thyam’ means ‘god’.

 

Roy explained, “The reason for the face painting is, what happen when you see a lot of colours, you feel happy right? It’s the inner happiness that you are expressing through these colours.”

 

The brush that was used in this face painting is a thin brush made of coconut leaves.

The brush that was used in this face painting is a thin brush made of coconut leaves.

 

He further stated, “We feel the almighty is always happy so there is the linkage. Your happiness is linked to god.”

 

According to Roy the five colours were black, yellow, orange, white and red.

 

Why five colours? You might ask. Raj said that they believe the universe is made of five elements; sky, wind, earth, fire and water. These colours carry the message of the five elements.

 

The finished look on an RWMF goer.

The finished look on an RWMF goer.

 

The colour dyes were all au naturel. They used ingredients such as stone dust, all kinds of various leaves; even the brush that they used was made of coconut leaves.

 

“Everything is all natural; there will be no effect to the skin,” said Roy.

 

The thyam dance is not just a performance. According to him, “‘Thyam is a very spiritual dance. Before and after the dance, the dancers would pray to god for blessings then they come on for the dance.”

 

On every ‘thyam’ face, you will notice that the surrounding eye area is painted in black. Roy said the reason for that was because to make the eye expression more obvious and easily seen during the performance.

 

The reason why the eye area is painted black is to make the eye expression 'pop'.

The reason why the eye area is painted black is to make the eye expression ‘pop’.

 

The best part of this tradition of face painting and performing the ‘Thyam’ dance is that the culture is in the safe hands of Karinthalakoottam.

 

Roy stated, “Karinthala means generation, koottam means good. So from one generation to another generation, we are trying to pass on the ritual. That is the aim. That is the idea.”

 

During the workshop, the members of Karinthalakoottam also shared their art of handicraft making. They taught the participants handicraft almost like origami but out of coconut leaves.

 

A member of Karinthalakoottam teaching a workshop participant how to fold a bird out of coconut leaves.

A member of Karinthalakoottam teaching a workshop participant how to fold a bird out of coconut leaves.

 

Karinthalakoottam is an ethno music performing group from Kerala, South India. They sing songs of the working class. They also sing about preserving the environment.

 

Besides ‘thyam’, they also performed other ritualistic dances such as ‘karinkali’, ‘vattamudi’ and Kerala’s martial, ‘kalari payattu’.

 

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