Nokuvidya: A Delicate Dance of the Wooden Puppets
Nokkuvidya Pavakali is a unique and centuries-old form of puppetry from Kerala. In Nokkuvidya, puppets chiseled out of wood are poised on a tall pole and balanced on the puppeteer’s upper lip, specifically in the indentation between the nose and the top lip. The wooden hinges and limbs of the puppet are manipulated using a string held in the puppeteer’s mouth. The balance and dexterity required from this almost trapeze-like act forces the performing artist to be focused and direct in gaze, and patient and precise in technique, which is why the puppetry is named Nokkuvidya, as nokku in Malayalam means look and vidya means technique. The puppet show is accompanied by songs and the retelling of stories from Indian epics.
The artist performing in this video is Moozhikkal Pankajakshi who is the last surviving link to this unusual art form. Age has not yet impaired the spirit and dedication of this veteran puppeteer who is a native of Monipally in Kottayam, Kerala.