visual stories

Watch: A three-minute view from a window captures Kerala's multiculturalism

The scenes from a village library are a one-of-a-kind tourism video in India.

If tourism videos are all about stunning visuals and tapping into the viewers’ desire to book a ticket to somewhere immediately, the video by Kerala tourism is not a tourism video at all.

Instead of taking the viewers to familiar lush green forests and backwaters in “god’s own country,” the video portrays years of immigration at Fort Kochi and the lost port of Muziris – which is believed to have been the region’s hub of trade before its disappearance.

Produced for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an International contemporary art exhibition held in Kochi annually, the video A Reading Room With a View encapsulates the “myriad shades of cultures that seep into each other” in three minutes.

As the title suggests, the camera is placed inside a village library, giving a view of slowly unfolding vibrancy on a street through two windows. Every passer-by depicts a different identity – shedding light on various communities that existed then and now.

It begins with men dressed in Dutch, Portuguese and Victorian outfits, walking out towards the right, the direction from which various other communities enter the frame – Christian nuns, Muslim children, foreign tourists, fishing boats.

Iconic figures like Kathakali dancers and elephants are balanced out by badminton players, children playing football and superhero cosplayers.

What’s inside the reading room is equally interesting – framed photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and Che Guevara placed next to each other – “a common sight in many rural libraries,” as one Facebook user observed.

Hinting at the political framework of Kerala, the two leaders symbolise the domination of two coalition fronts, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Indian National Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). Since 1982, Kerala has witnessed the two parties take power alternatively, every five years.

The room also features a framed image of writer and poet Rabindranath Tagore and a poster of influential Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, whose works signify the active literary and film festivals in the state.

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