Peemakumari has been living alone for years in an old building in Mattancherry. A rickety building that has doors which are closed with old sacks. I saw her once sitting with a number of cats. The cats ran away seeing me, a few stood at a distance with caution.
The journeys of Mancukkar have spawned various forms of oral histories and local narratives all across northern Malabar. Their travel accounts are a richly rewarding source of geography, ethnography and cultural history.
The history of mancukkar is the history of migrant labourers who were the pioneers of cross-regional labour vital to the functioning of trade, transportation and pilgrimage throughout the Arabian Sea and beyond.
Looking at maritime travels interconnectedness of various communities, their narratives and their collective sense of history and memory, many travel writers have described medieval and early modern Keralam as a world on the move.
There aren’t many places in the world, to which monsoon winds and the smell of spices brought more sea trading ships than to the ports in Kerala. Their glory has faded, but photographer KR Sunil in silent portraits of sea sailors is capturing their stories.
My impressions of Mattancherry was informed by the widely available images and representations. But while shooting for “Mattancherry Series” all my perceptions shattered. I felt that every space is created to encourage cohabitation and togetherness.
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