Thulirkal: Painting with Purpose, Keera Ratnam!



CTYA’s Blog has started a new Feature on Fridays, Thulirkal. Thulirkal meaning bud reflects the young Tamil youth we will befeaturing. These youth are the buds of our community, and are growing into to strong, achieving young men and women! Each week we will feature a Tamil youth of the week. For more information or to suggest a youth to feature, please feel free to email us at!

This week, we’ve brought you, Keera Ratnam!

Thank you for joining us today Keera. So, let’s get warmed up. Ok, now don’t think, just say what first comes to mind. 1, 2, 3…

Art or Music? Art

Three things you would take on Desert Island? Pencil, paper and a compass.

Favourite Painting Medium? Water colour

If you were invisible where would you go? Tamileelam’s isolated and banned Vanni camps

Short Hair or Long Hair? Love long hair, but my hair is too heavy and too curly so I have to make it short.

Early Riser or Night Hawk? It all depends when I paint. Early riser if I have to paint, and night hawk if I am kept up painting. Some days I sleep at 4 am painting. So everything depends on my painting. My work is my life.


Editor : Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Keera: Well, my name is Keerthana. I have been drawing since I was small. I think I was about three or four years old when I first started to paint. At that time I had this craze for colour, and I loved to make a mess. I would sit for hours and just scribble. As I grew up I started experimenting with everything that I found and tried to draw on everything. I would try creating my own mediums in which I used to create my art work. I used to shave my crayons and put them together and then blow dry them. Once they were stuck together I would examine it and try to colour with it. I guess art was my toy, it something that made me happy and I played around with it daily. Sometimes when I didn’t have  any pencils, crayons or paint I attempted making my own mediums. An incident that occurred when I was younger that showed my desire for art was when I was about 7 years old. I saw something that caught my attention and I just had to draw it. My fingers would fidget and I had the urge to express what  I had seen. So I found some chalk, this was the coloured chalk that children used to draw on the pavement. And I crushed it and mixed it up with Vaseline. When it came to the colour that I wanted it to be, I smeared it all over the wall and created my picture. Although it wasn’t a great masterpiece, it made me feel better. That’s what  I believe kept me going further with art, I felt that because I was able to express my feelings I kept drawing. The fact that I have complete control over what I drew and create, drew me closer to art. Not only did I bring out what I saw in my head and imagination but also the fact that no one else will have that same control that I had when I created a new type of paint, or art work. It will forever be my piece of work, something that no one else will and can re-create exactly how I made it. It was unique and I was mine.

Aside from art, I love to write. I like to write short stories and poetry. I like to paint and then create poems and passages for the pictures that I drew. I like to play with peoples imagination, and see how they picture what I have written. I would later try to recreate what they have perceived from my passage poems and art work.  I believe that it gives me a different perspective and sometimes gives me a variety of creative ideas that will help me expand my artwork.

I know alot of people want to know if I studied art, and no I have not. I majored in english. I do wish to study art, and become ” a professional” artist who has an art degree.

Aside from my education I am also a teacher at Arivakam Canada. I teach art and Tamil. I try to volunteer and reach out to young minds with my art work and try my best to help out and be invovled in many organizations.  

My paintings can be viewed on my art page. It is called Waves of Colour. This page was created to express art and raise awreness through the for of art. I attempt to illustrate my thoughts and feelings about humanitarian issues. There are also paintings that I have painted through out the years as an artist and muralist. This page in brief is an outline of my identity. It defines who I am and my passion towards art.

BlackJulyExhibit1Editor: Your work was recently showcased as part of Thazhumbakam Genocide Memorial Museum’s mobile exhibitions. Many of those who saw your work felt that you captured a lot of feeling and emotion into these pictures, and were very moved by your work. What motivated you to paint these pictures?

My motivation is  my pain. It carries a lot and tells a story. The pain I felt from years prior to the May 2009 genocide. It was pain from continuous loss and suffering. The pain that created a deep scar in me, deeply cutting me and ripping out my heart. As the years went by the pain increased and I couldnt keep my feelings back, and I expressed my self through my paintings. When I was young I thought that keeping our feelings back and being strong is the most mature thing to do. But that is not how it works. Our thoughts and feelings play a huge role in how we create our identity. My thoughts and feelings were kept away. I was keeping my self silent, and that kept my art silent. Then one day I exploded and I could not keep it in. I had to express how I felt, so I began to paint out my emotions.

My motivation did not come just because I lost my family or my people. It came because I questioned my self everyday asking why have I not done anything to take part in raising awareness. There are many people who have been killed, tortured and sacrificed in this on going genocide. There were  many who were part of my family, and I wondered how come their stories were never told. I questioned why I didn’t share what I have heard or the mental pictures that I was able to visualize. This is what became my motivation. My family, my obligation also they my talent that allowed be to step with a new approach. This made me also feel that I have an obligation to educate using my artwork and vision as a tool. I could feel there passion, and there fire that was burning inside them for many years. I felt as if they were wispering in my ears, I was able to close my eyes and see and feel what has happend. Sometimes thinking two seconds about what I pictured in my mind would give me goosebumps.  Its the feeling that gave me motivation.


Editor:A picture tells a thousands words.” Tell us a little about your favourite painting and the significance behind it. What inspired this painting? 

Keera:  I dont really have a favourite painting because I am my own critique its hard for me to pick. However I am sensitive towards paintings that express the stories behind the barbed wires. As you said before, ” a picture is worth a thousand words,” the stories behind the barbed wire are the same. These pictures and paintings that are painted  to represent the stories the mutiple voices that were silenced through out the years. Because art has the ability to speak silently but universally I felt that the silenced stories are the ones that needed to be painted. Again my inspiration came from personal loss, it came from what I felt and what I heard.




Editor: Are you currently working on new pieces? What can we expect to see this time, what story do you want to tell?

Keera: Im currently working on alot of different pieces. I like to work on different types of themes in a week. I would have 3 sets of themes and work on a painting for each daily. I am currently working on a set of paintings that help display the lifestyle of ancient Tamil civilians during the Chola period. I feel that it is necessary to also express and educate history that connects to our roots and culture. I am aiming to create a collection of paintings that will help teach and visualize Tamil history so that in the future it will be remembered rather than forgotten and buried with us. I am also working a painting that is going to be donated to a humanitarian refugee exhibit. These paintings will be auctioned in Australia. All proceeds will go to assist creating schools and homes. This project works with artist who will be displaying at work that speaks of the obstacles that many refugee Tamil women faced as they fled to a new country. I am one the artist of this exhibit and I feel that as a Tamil Canadian, working on an over seas project will give us Tamil Canadians a chance to express our talent globally.


Editor: If you could go back in time, and tell your younger self something, what would you say? 

Keera: I would tell my self that I should believe in my self. I always critize my work. It never satisfied me. I lost confidence and never stood up for my talent. I became my own triumph. Thats what many people need to understand. Don’t loose hope and dont loose confidence in your self. Even if there isn’t any one on your side, don’t let go of your talent. Your talent is what defines you. I know many would deny that, but think about it. If you truly love what you do, and cherish it no matter what happens you will never loose touch.  I thought that too, and  even tried to not draw for 4 years thinking that I wasn’t good enough to be called an “artist”. But i was wrong. I as not only good at drawing and painting , but I also needed it and depended on it. It was the only healing mantra to all my problems. No matter what happend I would always go back to art. So I would definetly go back in time and encourage my own self.

Editor: Finish the sentence. “To me, Tamil youth are..”

Keera: Tamil youth are strong expressive works of art. They each express different forms of talent but carry one identity. Using their talent they will paint the world creating a new identity for all Eelam Tamils.

For more information or to suggest a youth to feature, please feel free to email us at! Catch up with us next Friday where we’ll be bringing you another Talented Tamil youth story!




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