It’s a fine blend of art, design and lifestyle products at ‘Karuna and Maya’ in Thiruvananthapuram

A three-day exhibition by missionary worker Nirmala Karuna and architect Maya Gomez, will feature jute products, planters, artworks, and an acoustic folk rock performance
The City by the Beach
The City by the BeachMaya Gomez

From art to craft to music, it’s a mini carnival by the beach for those residing in Thiruvananthapuram. Visitors to ‘Karuna and Maya’ — a three-day exhibition by the Shanghumugham beach — can shop for jute curtains, planters, souvenir calendars and much more. Adding to the merriment is an acoustic folk-rock performance. Conceptualised by missionary worker Nirmala Karuna and architect Maya Gomez, ‘Karuna and Maya’ will showcase a fine blend of art, design, and lifestyle products.

A love for organic materials

According to Karuna, she was always “good with her hands”. Not only were her ideas “out of the box” but people seemed to appreciate her craft. It helped that she had an encouraging mother who inspired her to do her best. “My mother taught us to look out for rare and uncommon things. It was always ‘Oh, it’s a rare colour’ or ‘This is out of the ordinary’ and so on. I used to participate in school competitions and even if it were a small flower arrangement, she would say, ‘It’s lovely!’ She was attracted to nature and earthy things and would say, ‘Look how lovely this is’,” says Karuna. She adds that her mother is a very patriotic person and instilled the words “be Indian” in them.

Upon completing her graduation in Law, Karuna did an entrepreneurship course offered by the Kerala government at the Centre for Management Development. As a part of that, she decided to organise an exhibition featuring some of the products she had made out of jute and clay at the Women’s Club in Kowdiar. She won appreciation from Aswathy Tirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi — a member of the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family. Although Gowri Lakshmi Bayi ordered a jute drape from Karuna for their guesthouse palace, the exhibition, in 1995, was sadly ahead of its time. “Natural fibre-based home décor and furnishings were not in vogue then,” Karuna adds.

Planter by Nirmala Karuna
Planter by Nirmala Karuna

After a while, her craft took a backseat as her lifestyle took a turn due to spiritual encounter, marriage, and family. Karuna now wishes to celebrate her mother — who has exceptional taste in the concept of beauty — and she wishes to pass on the baton to her daughter. “My daughter hasn’t seen my creative side. This exhibition is not just an opportunity to showcase my skill and talent to her but also to hopefully pass down my knowledge and love for working with organic material to the next generation,” Karuna says.

For the upcoming exhibition, Karuna will showcase jute curtains that are embellished with anklet bells, terracotta beads, zari, satin, and lace, and jute ceiling drapes among other things. There are also planters, tiny pieces of wood that have plants such as Tulasi, Orchids and Aloe Vera. “My favourite is a Tulasi in a wooden planter with space to light the lamp,” she adds.

Jute curtain by Nirmala Karuna
Jute curtain by Nirmala Karuna

Painting interpretations

Maya recalls how she was always drawing as a child. She, however, had to put art on a hold when she took up architecture as a profession. When the pull toward the brush turned strong, she restarted painting three years ago. “The first painting I did was the Warrior and the Sage. It was a take on Parasuraman — half of him a warrior, half of him a sage. The day I painted it was coincidently November 1, Kerala Piravi Day,” says Maya, who notes that most of her works are, in some way or the other, related to Kerala or the culture around us.

She then went on to paint interpretations of the songs Alliyambal Kadavil and Chembarathi Poove Chollu. While the former depicted a brown-skinned lady of the lake, appear from amidst a dark green lake with brownish tints, the latter juxtaposed bright red hibiscus flowers against a black and white temple background. In a take on Thiruvathira, she painted seven dancers, all dressed in mundu neriyathu in a circle, with their hands entwined, their hair let loose, dancing in abandon.

The Malayali Kitchen
The Malayali KitchenMaya Gomez

“It kept building up and soon I happened to have a lot of works with a Kerala theme to it,” says Maya, who has featured some of the paintings in the pages of a calendar. “It’s tough to find a souvenir that encapsulates Kerala but I think this 2021 desktop calendar does so,” says Maya, who adds that the exhibition will not be carrying her original works, but prints of her works. “I have them as art cards and have placed them as sets. I want my works to get out there and reach more people.” The venue, says Maya, is a quaint little house by the Shanghumugham beach.

According to Maya, she started a WhatsApp group for art lovers called ‘Art Club’ during the Covid lockdown. “We would hold a theme per week. We started with the theme blue. Every week I would do watercolours based on these themes and now I have sets of these themes, which I have printed into art cards.”

Dr Biju John
Dr Biju John

A one-man destruction army

The exhibition, which starts on January 10, also features a musical performance by Dr Biju John. “What I do is take well-known classics and turn them into unrecognisable acoustic versions. Basically, I am a one-man destruction army,” chuckles Dr John.

The doctor who gave up clinical medicine, but now concentrates on academic medicine says, he performs for family and friends. The 50-year-old who claims he is stuck between the 70s and 90s, says the genre of music he plays can best be classified as acoustic folk-rock. “The kind of music I play are mostly songs that are familiar to those between the 40 and 50 year-olds.”

According to John, he usually has a theme-based narrative for his performances. “The theme is usually something relevant. It could be on global warming, pandemics, or even stupidity. I string 10 to 15 songs around the subject and there will be a lot of dark humour and cynicism.”

The exhibition will be held at ‘Seaside homestay ’, Shanghumugham Beach, Thiruvananthapuram, from January 10 to 12 and the timing will be from 10.30 am till 7.30 pm. WhatsApp 9745613199/9446014710 for details.

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