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Experiments with natural colors to introduce tribal children to Art – A case study on Kerala’s ‘Karimbu’ Art Project

Creative Community Engagement Process

‘Karimbu’ project, a visual arts camp, was initiated by the artists of Trespassers under the leadership of the State Forest Development Agency of Kerala for the education of Art among the tribal children in Anappantham, Chalakuddy Divison in Kerala. Karimbu, which means sugarcane in Malayalam, is also used as a musical instrument by the tribals during all occasions – joyous or sorrowful.

Community Engagement Goals

•   The creative goal of the project is to create awareness of Art among tribal children and learn to express themselves.


Managing kids was a big challenge. The initial interaction with the kids was a hiccup. A breakthrough was possible after devising interactive methods like playing games and narrating stories. The artists thus created a comfortable environment to engage with the kids and take the project work forward.

As these kids have no access to the outer world and had not held a crayon or a color pencil before, it was a challenge to make them understand what Art is.

Methods of Community Participation/Engagement

The artists of Trespassers wanted to understand how the children welcomed the concept of Contemporary Art, even when they had not used colors before. They started by making them aware of colors and how to obtain them from their natural surroundings. For example, the yellow color was obtained from turmeric powder, and the red color was obtained when turmeric powder was mixed with slaked lime. The black color was obtained from charcoal. Different kinds of leaves were used to get different shades of green. The leaves from the teak tree were used to obtain different shades of red.

Experimenting with colors turned out to be an enriching experience for the kids. The excitement and possibility of obtaining colors from the natural surroundings helped the kids probe more into the world of colors.

After obtaining the colors, the kids were taught to paint with a brush. They were instructed on how to paint, advising them on tiny details like making sure to wash the tip of the paintbrush before moving to another color.

After the initial stages of training, the children were directed to paint the walls of their school. The concept of space was taught to them, where they were instructed not to stick to one side of the wall and use the entire wall for the painting. They were made aware of how to work as a team.


The motivation behind doing this visual art camp was to understand what the kids come to make of their understanding of Contemporary Art. They were introduced to a whole new world of colors alongside implanting a new set of thought processes around Art, its creation. The children were made aware of the possibilities of creating Art from things in the surroundings (nature, for example) and building and beautifying that surrounding (in this case, the school walls) further.

karimbu art project


The visual art camp took place at ‘Anappantham’ village of Chalakuddy forest division Vellikkulangara range, Kerala.


Children in the age group of 5yrs-10 years participated in the camp.


The camp was held from 25th September to 29th September 2021 and was a successful fiveday camp.

Overall experience

It was a learning experience for both the artists and the kids, as both the parties loved the outcome of the camp and gained knowledge and experience. The kids learned how to obtain colors from their natural surroundings, which was also new for the artists. After observing the outcome, the Forest Department initiated the camp’s fun yet creative learning engagement in other forest districts of Kerala.

Karimbu art project

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