Kochi Biennale Foundation Spearheads the Creation of ‘Pappanji’


Kochi: In keeping with the festive spirit of the Cochin Carnival that marks the start of the New Year, a huge 37-ft ‘Pappanji’ is under construction near INS Dronacharya.

Sponsored by the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), this year’s Pappanji is being made under the watchful eyes of artists Reghunadhan K and K G Anto, who are guiding 20 workers and art students working day and night to finish the massive figure.

Burning the Pappanji is a public celebration at midnight to usher in the New Year’s festivities and carnival in Fort Kochi. “We’re being treated with much love and affection by the people living nearby; they even bring delicious homemade food for us while we are at work,” says Reghunadhan, who was a participating artist in the first edition of KMB.

Pappanji—Portuguese for ‘old man’—is the effigy of a suited and booted, old White man symbolising the passing of the old year, and is rooted in the Portuguese, Dutch and other European influences on Fort Kochi.

While the tradition started among the local people of Fort Kochi in the 1980s, the Biennale Foundation has undertaken the building of the Pappanji, since the first edition of the art exhibition in 2012.

The construction of this year’s Pappanji, which started just five days back, will hold some surprises, says Reghunadhan. “We cannot reveal the surprise element now, of course. It was challenging to make a Pappanji this huge in less than 10 days,” says the artist. “And unlike the models from the earlier years, we are making a totally different Pappanji; one with international appeal.”

The Pappanji stands on a strong base, five feet from the ground, with a steel frame stuffed with eco-friendly material, such as jute and cotton to enable the burning process. This year’s Pappanji burning ceremony will be held at the seafront near the Bastian Bungalow and Cochin Club, said V D Majeendran, General Secretary, Cochin Carnival.

“Burning of the Pappanji is a symbol of Kochi’s secular and festive spirit,” said Bony Thomas, Biennale Foundation Trustee.