Theyyam at Kottayampovil The Back View of the performer !
Theyyam is an art form practiced only in Kerala and that too in a select part of its Northern Districts of Kannur, Kasragode and Calicut.
It is an ancient dance form and a precursor to the more stylised and less vigorous Kathakali. Steeped in ancient history it is a wonderful mix of the ethnographic influences in the state of Kerala. The Theyyam performances are held in clan groups and all the members get their resources together and have it conducted year after year within a dwindling availibilty of money and the exaggerated moral responsibility of keeping the traditions alive for their ancestors and their family names.
Ultimately it is an economic issue whether this great dance form will survive or not.. The Theyyam dances are performed by distinct caste and communities and it is they who will over a period of time decide whether they would continue to perform the dances or better opportunities and employment will take them elsewhere. The Theyyam celebrations are expensive affairs and it is a tough job for the vast majority of the clans to keep it going.
It is a rare privilege to see this in one's lifetime. A few more years and who knows whether it survives or not.
I was enroute to shoot a Theyyam performace in Kannur in January 2008. On the way I took a detour to Kottayampovil which is about 11-12 kms from the town of Thalassery on the NH 17 that runs along the coast.
A Theyyam dancer near the end of his routine does a slow step, worn, weary and bare feet with a sticking plaster stuck on the small toe as a reminder of its present day happening.
This has been shot with a 185 mm lens.
Camera: Nikon D70
Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/1000)
Focal Length: 185 mm
ISO Speed: 200
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
Flash: No Flash
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