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A lamentably occasional photo blog in which I share some samples from my archives at www.timbirdphotography.com .

Did you miss me? I’ve been away from here for far too long but I’ve had lots of adventures with my camera while I’ve been away. I don’t have a good excuse for not posting for a while apart from other creative distractions going on – more news of those to come. I shall try to make up for lost time in the coming weeks with some photo selections that I hope you’ll enjoy.

I’ve been sifting through my archives and amazing myself at all the extraordinary things I’ve seen and the places I’ve visited since the last time I posted anything. Top of my list is the Theyyam ritual ‘performance’, for want of a better word, which you’ll only find in the northern part of the Indian state of Kerala. This is very much a living tradition, a ritual of great significance to local people, not just staged for tourists. There are often several Theyyams being performed each night during the winter season at shrines, many of them in remote villages. Theyyams can continue through the course of a night from dusk to dawn, and sometimes even longer.

An important part of the ritual is the preparation, in which intricate make-up and elaborate costumes are applied to the ‘actors’, whose aim over the course of the enactment is to actually become the deity that they represent, not just play its part. The trance into which they attempt to enter is induced to the accompaniment of frenetic drumming. Only men and boys are permitted to represent the characters, and only members of the Dalit or low-caste community are allowed to serve as actors. It is a rare case of Dalits being held traditionally in great respect by members of higher castes.

I stayed near the small fishing town of Kannur and attended three different Theyyams during my visit.

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Making up is very hard to do: face and body decorations preceding the Theyyam can take several hours and is a highly skilled art form in itself.

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After make-up, dressing up. Costumes are very colourful, and very heavy.

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A Theyyam character (there are hundreds of them) ready to ‘perform’.

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The character ‘actors’ need plenty of stamina.

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Some Theyyams involve dancing and the acting out of ritual scenes.

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Assistants provide support as the characters ‘become’ the deities they represent.

If you’d like to see more of my Theyyam photos, click here to visit a gallery on my website.

All photos produced with Fujifilm X-Series cameras and Fujinon lenses.

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