Beyond just campus art

Sakavalvu, the collective, comprises 15 students from various departments of the College of Fine Arts, who make various utility objects, paintings, and eco-print dresses for sale.
Students show artworks created as part of the Sakavalvu collective to visitors at the College of Fine Arts in Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo | B P Deepu)
Students show artworks created as part of the Sakavalvu collective to visitors at the College of Fine Arts in Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo | B P Deepu)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a novel initiative, the students of the College of Fine Arts in Thiruvananthapuram have been employing their artistic skills to aid various social causes. Under the banner, Sakavalvu, the collective, comprising 15 students from various departments, has made various utility objects, paintings, and eco-print dresses, which are then made available for sale on their website and Instagram page of the same name. Sakavalvu means co-existence in Tamil.

The idea for the collective took root when one of the students, Amjad T V, struggled to raise funds for the kidney transplant operation of his 17-year-old sister. Rather than lament about their friend’s distress, fellow students jumped into action and helped crowdfund a significant amount. They were ably supported by the faculty. “More than a vessel of creativity, art is also a tool to communicate and cultivate empathy. With this initiative, the collective is helping students and others become more empathetic,” says Akhiljith V, a lecturer in painting. The college allots the money to acquire fabric and other materials for the project, he adds.

The Malappuram native Amjad is very pleased to learn about his friends’ initiative. “Though college reopened after the pandemic break, I could not attend classes regularly due to the bad health condition of my sister. When I reached the campus, they had already begun the crowdfunding work, much to my surprise. Later, I also joined the cause. I believe the initiative will help contribute a handsome amount towards operation and hospital charges,” says Amjad, who handles the digital activities of Sakavalvu.

‘Earn while learn’ model

Though Sakavalvu was launched for a social cause, for many students, the project is also an avenue to find funds for their studies while honing their craft. Creating products and finding customers for them has also helped many glimpse the life of an artist.

For Sreelekshmi KG, a student of BFA painting, the project has enabled her to gain insights into key marketing aspects. 

“For many, especially the girls, the world that awaits us after graduation is scary. We were uncertain how we could explore a career in art. However, the project has given us an idea of how to find a footing,” says Sreelekshmi, one of the admins of Sakavalvu’s social media page.

The collective has featured most of the products on its social media page. Some students have even turned into models to highlight the products better, especially the eco-print apparel. “The posts are well received. We are getting more and more enquiries every day. A prominent social media influencer, too, has come forward to promote our goods after learning about the cause. We plan to launch a physical stall on our college campus in the coming days,” Sreelekshmi adds.

To sharpen skills

From woodcut, drypoint, and cyanotype prints, the collective has etched their own designs to create cloth tote bags and T-shirts that convey positive messages. “As part of academic workshops, we have created our own design plates in our woodcut print sessions. So we used those designs to print tote bags and T-shirts. The initiative also gave us hands-on experience and practical knowledge of designing,” says Febin Raj of the applied arts department.

According to Sumesh Chempoor, the lecturer in Applied Arts said, “This has been the practice in other reputed art institutions in the country. The money from such collective initiatives is pooled to fuel other art endeavours.” He adds that directly interacting with the public through their art utilities helps students understand the practical side of life as an artist. Artists, both students and professionals, are social beings. This project, which goes beyond the syllabus, helps mould a realistic approach to art practices in students, says Prof Narayanankutty K, the college principal.

A call to the public

Sakavalvu is also a call to the public to appreciate fine arts students’ talents better. “The public should understand what these students learn as art here. Initiatives like Sakavalvu will help create a bridge between the public and the students here. In addition, the collective will also seek new interventions in design taking into account the needs of society and profitability,” says Naquash V, assistant professor in sculpture.

Some exciting work by the collective includes the terracotta trinkets and home decor pieces curated by Joshua Sunny, a final-year student at the college who hails from Wayanad. 

The terracotta artworks include kolambi speakers, tortoise paperweights, and the Marvel character Groot’s head as a pen-holder. Eco-print fabric dresses stitched by MFA student Sandra Thomas and BFA graduate Dhanya V V are any fashionista’s dream. 

“Dried petals of flowers like Jamandhi, roots of Manjistha herb, various leaves, etc., were soaked and steamed for three hours to create these accidental designs,” Sandra says. Meanwhile, MFA student Manu Dominique Gonsalvez has used his intricate handwork painting skills to sculpt pendant neck pieces in brass and shell of coconuts.

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The New Indian Express