One of the oldest and most prominent cultural institutions in Kerala, the Kerala Lalithakala Akademiis an indispensable part of the art and culture scene in the state. Established in 1962 to promote and conserve the fine arts, it has evolved through the ages to include all forms of visual arts. Today it is a centre that works towards the conservation and promotion of art of all kinds, including multimedia and performing arts. The organisation is supported by the Government of Kerala, has an autonomous board of members and functions out of the cultural capital of the state - Thrissur.
The Akademi today curates and hosts varying art and cultural activities that range from exhibitions and screenings to workshops and talk series. In keeping with the times, the Kerala Lalilthakala Akademi is also moving towards contemporising the brand with its latest venture. Working with many of the great creatives that are part of the organisation, they launched TheSigns - a brand that makes contemporary art more accessible and participatory.
Launched at the Kochi Muziris Biennale in February 2023, TheSigns feature a limited number of well-designed products. This ranges from bespoke T-shirts, tote bags, and notebooks carrying the phrase ‘How Art You’ to ceramic jars etched with the word ‘touchings’. This word is a colloquial way to refer to snacks that one would pair with liquor - from pickles to peanuts and everything in between. Diving into the life of a Malayali, and creatively interpreting each concept, these pieces are essentially ‘design interventions’ according to the team.
These curated designs are essentially an attempt by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi to reach people across varying demographics, and to promote the integration of art into everyday life. One of the most striking pieces they have currently is the fine silver pendant with an etching of the word ‘njan’. This word that refers to the ‘self’ is a meditation in identity that has been made wearable. Through their social media page, TheSigns team examines this concept through a slew of words one might be described by or would choose to describe oneself with. But it concludes with one line that communicates the existential exhaustion of one’s identity and all that it entails. Or as the product description puts it, “all of me against all of the world against all of me against all of the world’s ideas of me. Exhausting. And you dare judge?”
Currently available only at the Kochi Muziris Biennale Kada and the Durbar Hall, the designs from TheSigns are a wonderful way to integrate and interact with the contemporary art that exists in Kerala. Whether one prefers wearing their identity through the ‘njan’ pendant or choosing to jot down their creative ideas in a notebook, this brand has got you covered.
If you’d like to know more about the brand, you can follow them on Instagram here.
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