For a septuagenarian, Anila Jacob exudes an energy that would shame even a 17-year-old. Just like the fluidity and movement depicted in her sculptures, Anila’s career spanning 54 years still moves ahead buoyed by her passion for creation. Honouring her work in the field of sculpting, the state government will present Anila with the Raja Ravi Varma Award in a ceremony slated to be held on November 14 in Thiruvananthapuram.
“The award is bestowed upon those who have made exemplary contributions to the field of art,” said Anila. According to her, among the artists of the past and the present, the number of women who takeup sculpting are very few. "Women never keep at it and among my contemporaries, I think I am the only one who continued on the path and made no deviation," said the artist who became a sculptor by accident.
“I had applied for the painting course at the Madras Fine Arts College. But was admitted to the sculpting course by the then principal, KCS Panicker,” she said. Anila was initially flustered since sculpting was not considered a woman’s forte back then. “The principal urged me to attend classes for two weeks. He promised me that if I didn’t like the course, I could shift. He even admitted another girl just so that I wouldn’t feel all alone in a class of over 22 male students,” she said.
But two weeks extended to a month and then a year. “I got hooked onto sculpting. Giving my musings and ideas a three-dimensional perspective was thrilling,” she said. Another factor that played a role in making her a sculptor was the art of Kanayi Kunhiraman. “He was my senior and his works fascinated me,” she said. She soon began writing poetry in wood, metal, clay and other materials. According to her, all her sculptures are based on abstract themes.
“I inculcate the nature, environment, art forms, festival and daily life of people in Kerala,” she said. Citing an example, Anila said, “During an artists’ camp, we were at a resort. All of us were asked to create an artwork based on the surroundings. As soon as I got the brief, my eyes fell on the boats and boatmen on the lake. I made a sculpture that included all these facets,” she said.
According to Anila, her sculptures are intricate and nuanced. Each component in the sculpture signifies something,” she said. Many of her creations have been installed in important places across the state and the country. “One of my sculptures titled ‘Unity in Diversity’ occupies a prime spot in Terminal 3 of the Cochin International Airport,” she said.