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The pop palette of the urban caravans: contemporary truck art in Kerala.

Lush, verdant, and luxuriant, with colours richer and deeper, varying shades that dance within a green spectrum, foliage that bends into a water line of endless canals and placid backwaters, that is Enda Keralam, a colorist's delight.

The land and the sky vie with each other for the photographers eye, and the lens plays tricks on the composition.

Visual distraction has inspired poets, writers, and painters who have blended colour with religion and the daily fare of life.

Over the years, right through history, be it a painter-priest or a humble artisan who adorns trucks, nature has been an integral influence on their work.


The muralists in temples painting gods and flowers, and the street painters advocating the benefits of red and green toothpaste, compete with the truck painters on themes, colours, and creative writing.

The presence and absence of god in god's own country can be seen in the political banners from Ram to Marx, from green to saffron and red.

The foliage and the monsoon evidence the power of nature on the visual senses of the artists and craftsmen.

This extension to the artisans and painters is seen in rich embellishment, be it the gold jewellery that adorns the women, or the elaborate visual and verbal endearments with which men decorate their valuable movable assets--their trucks!

The relationship between a Kerala truck owner and this machine is intense, personal, and endearing, and its adornment is similar to a man who adorns his wife to illustrate his prosperity.

The artisan painters also are part-time poets, copywriters, and graphic designers as the themes stretch from nature to words of love, philosophy, and advice to other vehicle owners and to the public at large.

The trucks are fitted with wooden platforms that have brightly painted hand-carved images of foliage, animals, and gods.

There are carved wooden panels, vibrantly coloured pop foliate forms, fashioned like the fringes of the '70s pop icons, on these roaring vehicles.

The trucks are an extension of the family and have endearing names ... Baby ... Uncle ... Moll ... and names of daughters, sons, wives, and lovers ... painted like tattoos on the cabin frame in the front. On the road the trucks look like a pop palette, creatures zooming around on the street, oblivious to their outlandish presence.

The painted panels on the cabins and at the rear and front of the trucks stand out in the chaos and traffic of this bustling literate state.

There are several artisans who follow the same traditional rendition of foliage forms, with more than a little help on verse and rhyme from the street bard.

The truck art is local tradition and fashion, influenced by nature and by affluence, its colourful visual embellishments with catchy phrases with or without grammar, painted in glossy commercial paint reflecting the artisan and the patron.

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Title Annotation:Photo Essay
Author:K., George
Publication:Marg, A Magazine of the Arts
Article Type:ess
Date:Dec 1, 2010
Previous Article:New voices new directions.
Next Article:In conversation.

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