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Submitted by: Surbhi Modi – 31 FD 5
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our faculty of Appreciation of Textiles, Dr. Sarvani V., for helping us & guiding us to accomplish this p r o j e c t r ep o r t o n t h e K a l a m k a r i – p a i n t e d t e x t i l e s o f Andhra Pradesh. I would also like to express my gratitude to her for giving us this assignment which greatly helped us in increasing our knowledge about the subject. Thanking You Surbhi Modi – 31 FD 5
PAINTED TEXTILES OF INDIA TEXTILES OF ANDHRA PRADESH KALAMKARI - AN INTRODUCTION KALAMKARI AT SRIKALAHASTI HISTORY PRADESH DYES & MORDANTS PROCESS USED IN HAND PAINTING OF KALAMKARIS AT SRIKALAHASTI HUES OF NATURE DESIGNS, MOTIFS & APPLICATIONS SOCIO ECONOMIC CONDITIONS OF THE ARTISTS & THE PRESENT SCENERIO FUTURE OF AN ANCIENT ART FROM THE MOUTH OF NEWSPAPERS OF KALAMKARI IN SRIKALAHASTI, ANDHRA
PAINTED TEXTILES OF INDIA
Painting on fabrics is a very old method of decorating the cloths made. It is done by hand. Painted fabric is popular in wall hangings, tablecloths, floor spreads, ceiling cloths, tents panels, temple hangings and canopies and bedsheets. Dyes or mordants, or fixing agents, are painted with a brush on cotton cloth. Like individual drawings they have a human touch unlike blockprinting where the use of blocks makes the process more mechanical and restricted. Figurative and floral motifs predominate and these large spreads, palampores, are in great demand all over the world. Vibrant colours, red, black, ochre and white, are applied in bold strokes on spreads. Some of the beauteous painted fabrics of India are as follows: Pichavai Kalamkari Patachitra of Orissa Tamilnadu temple textiles Pabuji-ki-Pad of Rajasthan
TEXTILES OF ANDHRA PRADESH
Andhra Pradesh is a state situated on the eastern coast of India. Its capital and largest city is Hyderabad. Among other reasons that make up this beautiful state of south India is the art and craft that have been a part of Andhra ever since. Most handicrafts have been learned as an art form down the ages. And some of them are still a part of the cottage industry of Andhra. Some major textiles of Andhra are Annibuta Sari, Cotton Zari Saris, Dharmavaram Silk Sari, Gadwal Sari, Narayanpet Silk Saris, Upadha Jamdani Saris, Venkatagiri Saris, Hand Block Printing, Tie & Dye/Telia Rumal/Ikat, Kalamkari Hand Painting, Banjara Tribal Embroidery & Mirror Work Embroidery, Zari, Zardozi, Tinsel Embroidery, Paagdu Bandhu-Yarn Tie Resist Dyeing, Durrie weaving from Warangal, Jute Craft from Vishakapatnam etc. KALAMKARI - AN INTRODUCTION Kalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in parts of India. The word is derived from the Persian words kalam (pen) and kari (craftmanship), meaning drawing with a pen. The intricate pictures are drawn with kalam or bamboo reed using natural dyes. European merchants also had names for this type of fabric decoration: the Portugese called it pintado, the Dutch used the name sitz, and the British preferred chintz.
The Natural dyestuffs used in this craft are inexpensive and freely available in many parts of our country. These decorated fabrics were either used as temple backcloths or as garments. The art of Kalamkari, which has been practised in several parts of India from early times, is now confined to merely a few places. There are two distinctive styles of kalamkari art in India one, the Srikalahasti style, which is essentially narrative in character & often religious and the other, the Machalipatnam style of art, which has wider application in garments & articles of daily use. Unlike other centres of Kalamkari, the craftsmen of Srikalahasti still use the ancient techniques of dyeing, which they had inherited from the earliest days. The wall hangings drawn free hands are the most popular creations of the Craftsmen. Hindu mythology is the main source of themes. Some of the craftsmen in Srikalahasti also produce beautiful textile materials drawn free hand.
The craft made at Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, evolved with patronage of the Mughals and the Golconda sultanate. Around the midnineteenth century, printing blocks were introduced, and from then on very little freehand kalam drawing was done. Large figurative kalamkari wall hangings for both the foreign and domestic markets were formerly made at Pulicat, near Madras, and Palakollu, near Machalipatnam. The Persian influence is evident in the profusion of non-figurative motifs like trees, flowers, creepers and even some calligraphic lettering. The very Persian 'Tree of life' is a popular subject. The craftsmen of Machalipatnam produce beautiful block printed materials like table linen, lungies, blankets etc. Tanjore Kalamkari craftsmen specialise in temple decorations like thumbais etc. Bagru, Sanganer, Palampur and Faizabad are few centres in northern India where Kalamkari is practised. While there are many forms of kalamkari throughout India and the world, the focus of this document is on extant kalamkari practice in Sri Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh, in South India. Sikkinaickenpet is the only centre for hand painted Kalamkaris, apart from the temple town of Srikalahasti. Each region has its own tradition & stylistic differences in drawing the figures & the background.
KALAMKARI AT SRIKALAHASTI
The township of Srikalahasti The temple at Sri Kalahasti is one of the most revered Saivite shrines in South India. Located in the Chittor District of southern Andhra Pradesh, near the famous temple-town Tirupati, Sri Kalahasteeswara Temple is considered to be a Navagrahastalam where Rahu and Ketu - of the nine grahams or celestial bodies in Indian astrology worshipped Shiva. Sri Kalahasteeswara represents wind/air or Vayu Kshetram. The small temple town of Sri Kalahasti only became an important centre for Kalamkari in the nineteenth century. KALAMKARI The Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari, wherein the "kalam" or pen is used for free hand drawing of the subject and filling in the colours, is entirely hand worked. This style flowered around temples and their patronage and so had an almost religious identity scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners and the like, depicted deities and scenes taken from the great hindu epics Ramayana, Mahabarata, Puranas and the mythological classics. Figurative and floral designs of great fineness were possible using this method of drawing and painting. Be that as it may, Kalahasti was well placed for kalamkari work, as it lay on the
river Swarnamukhi, which was favorable for dyeing operations and could enjoy the great patronage of the famous temple town of Tirupati. This free style of pictorial expression called for the use of the kalam. Its minimal use of repeats was never suited to block work. In Kalahasti, in 1958, the All India Handicrafts Board set up a training course and school for kalamkari workers, drawing on the skills of the few remaining workers. Production here is now aimed at the foreign tourist market. Popular subjects include Dashavatara (the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu), Bhagavad Gita (the charioteer Krishna's sermon to Arjuna) and Kaliyanartana Krishna (Krishna dancing on the hood of the serpent, Kaliya). Only natural vegetable dyes are used to bring out the most intricate traditional, ethnic designs on different fabrics, ranging from cotton to silk, tussar and crepe.
HISTORY OF KALAMKARI IN SRIKALAHASTI, ANDHRA PRADESH Kalamkari was most likely derived from trade relationships between Persian and Indian merchants as early as the 10th
century CE. Sri Kalahasti was most likely established as a kalamkari centre due to its close proximity to a constant supply of clean, flowing water (a necessary component to kalamkari production), found in the River Swarnamurki that runs through the town. The port, Machalipatnam in Northern Andhra Pradesh, was a prominent trading site along the Coromandel Coast, and the location where kalamkari from Sri Kalahasti had been traded to merchants from around the world and ultimately shipped off to a variety of international locations. During the 18th century, it was practised all over the Coromandal cost stretching from Machalipatnam at the north to southern parts of India, especially in areas like Srikalahasti, Salem, Madura, Palakolu, Machalipatnam, Tanjore, Eleimbedu in Chengalpet, and in Cocanada districts.
Merchants and traders from around the world used Indian textiles, the majority of which were kalamkari, as a currency in the Spice Trade. Thus a triangular trading system was established that implicated Indian textiles in a larger global exchange of goods and products. Kalamkari textiles took many forms depending on their intended market. Prayer rugs, canopies and door covers painted with meharab designs, animal forms and floral motifs were made for the Middle-Eastern market, while tree-of-life bedcovers and dress material that resembled crewel work was painted for the European market. On the other hand, patterned hip and shoulder wrappers and narrative wall hangings were traded to the Southeast Asian market and material for robes and jackets were sent to East Asia. The main artist families involved in kalamkari during the 19th century were members of the Balaji jati community traditionally involved in agricultural work and small industry. Around the middle of the 20th century, the popularity of kalamkari in Sri Kalahasti waned to the point of near disappearance, with most artists focusing on agricultural work and other local occupations. At that point, government-run kalamkari training centres focused on teaching a new generation of artists the techniques and stylistic vocabulary of kalamkari. The Sri Kalasteeswara Temple has long been a source of admiration and patronage. The Chola, and Vijayanagar rulers are noted as the main patrons to the temple. The name Sri Kalahasti is associated with an important Hindu legend-a story that is often depicted in kalamkari wall hangings. Shiva is said to have given salvation to a spider, elephant and a serpent who were ardent devotees of the Shiva Lingam located here. The
spider is said to have attained salvation in Kritayuga, while the elephant and the snake were devotees in Treta Yugam, the succeeding aeon. The elephant's devotional outpouring was a source of disturbance to the serpent's display of devotion and vice versa, resulting in animosity between the two, until Shiva's intervention gave both the devotees their liberation. Kalamkari art has been practised by many families in Andhra Pradesh and has constituted their livelihood. It was also the rulers of the Qutub Shahi dynasty that gave the craft its name "kalamkari"--derived from qalamkor, an artisan who works with the pen. The Kalamkari tradition grew rapidly under Muslim influence, large-scale workshops were set up, and craftsmen from Iran were brought in to draw Persian motifs. With the demand from the West, themes from the Old Testament of the Bible also appeared in Kalamkaris. Various guilds developed that were a part of the social network and vibrant culture. Production fell into steep decline at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1924, Persia prohibited the import of Indian kalamkari. Temple patronage declined and the local landlords lost wealth and powers of patronage. In 1952, kalamkari was revived at the instigation of some local textile lovers and with the aid of the All India Handicrafts Board, the kalamkari, as used and made in Iran, was taken as a model. The use of indigo was eschewed, as the painting on the wax resist was so time-consuming. A minimum of color was used, with an emphasis on the filling-in of fine details with a kalam after the pattern had been traced. The discovery of synthetic dyes in the West in the 19th century dealt a massive blow to the Indian textile industry.
DYES & MORDANTS
Vegetable dyes are the colours of India; the lovely green of the henna leaves and the deep blue of the indigo are among the hues that jostle for attention on the colour palette used in Kalamkari. The whole process is a natural and scientific one. Many of the dyes are extracted from materials that have medicinal properties. Myrobalam, a popular herb in Indian medicine, is a valuable mordant & dye, crucial to the Kalamkari craft which gives the cloth strength and protects the body. The colour black is obtained from myrobalam fruit. The fruit known as kadukkai is commonly used as a mordant in all vegetable dye processes. The red dye is obtained from barks of manjishta( Madder) which are used for treating rashes and abrasions; the yellow is from turmeric which shields the body from germs. Mango bark dust & leaves & skin of pomegranate also impart a beautiful yellow colour. Depending on the treatment of cloth, or quality of the mordant, the colours change accordingly. Another herb surulpattal, which is purplishbrown dye, is added with manjishta to deepen the red. Colors like blue & yellow are cold applications. A beautiful dark blue is derived from indigo which is a vat dye. Extract of catechu, known in native parlance as kasikatti, imparts a strong brown & chocolate shade. The harmless, naturally dyed fabrics are used for Kalamkari paintings. Only four colours are used. No chemical dyes are
used is producing Kalamkari colours. Among the vegetable dyes, the basic colours of black, red, blue are the most prized. The basic black dye, kaseem, was venerated & accorded the status of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, by the family. It was considred inauspicious to lend the dye to others or to remove the dyepot outside the hearth of the home. The process of making chemical dyes was less elaborate than that of vegetable dyes which was time consuming and depended on sunlight and huge amounts of water. Chemical dyes were also considered "more durable". This led to the decline of vegetable dyes. Once used widely all over the subcontinent, now there are only pockets where pure vegetable dyed fabrics are made and some areas where vegetable dyes are used in conjunction with chemical dyes.
But there has been a revival of interest in vegetable dyes in recent times. The "back to nature" movement has refocused interest in vegetable dyes both in the West and within the country. Chemical dyes have led to environmental degradation; whole rivers have been polluted with clear life-giving waters turning toxic and murky. Workers handling chemical dyes have been afflicted with respiratory problems. Chemical dyed clothes are harmful to the skin and can cause allergies. Vegetable dyed fabrics are of three categories - yarn dyed in natural colours and woven; materials block printed with natural dyes and Kalamkari where the "Kalam" or pen is used to draw beautiful designs on the cloth. Government efforts gave a fillip to the art of vegetable dyeing. It also received a boost as individuals and non-government organisations turned their attention to it. But vegetable dyes are mellow and lovely, even the fading is a graceful and an even process. "The background runs and the colours show up; Westerners in the past actually thought it was magic as the colours got brighter with each wash." The fabrics are not difficult to care for. They can be washed at home and dried in the sunlight. If detergents and dry cleaning are avoided, they will last for years.
PROCESS USED IN HAND PAINTING OF KALAMKARIS AT SRIKALAHASTI
In Srikalahasti hand painting is predominant, the wall panels depicting mythological tales and characters. Each design can take several days of concentrated effort to complete, as the process of dyeing and hand printing are very elaborate. Many stages have to be undergone before the final results are achieved. Cloth used for Kalamkari painting is generally unbleached calico (gada). Unlike other styles of painting, Kalamkari painting demands a lot of treatment before and after the painting is completed on the cotton fabric. Used as temple hangings these textile paintings are drawn free hand with charcoal sticks while the painting is done with a bamboo kalam (pen). The process followed is lengthy and painstaking with attention paid to minute detailing and each step is rigorously followed to produce a final piece.
I. Unbleached cotton cloth that is to be used for the hand painted Kalamkari.
II. The fabric after it has been washed in water and bleached by soaking in buffalo or goat dung solution, then washed in clean water and dried in the sun for a few days.
III.The cloth dipped into a solution of milk and myrobalan (harda). Both the raw and ripe Myrobalan fruit can be used. Buffalo milk is added to the solution as it prevents the vegetable colours from spreading and smudging in the later stages the milk also adds certain stiffness to the fabric thereby making it an easier canvas to work on.
IV.The pattern an auspicious Ganesha figure is sketched on to the cloth with charcoal made of burnt tamarind twigs.
The sketch is outlined using a kalam dipped into a solution made of iron filings that have been fermented in molasses. This mixture, when combined with fermented starch or with coconut water, results in the formation of iron acetate. When painted on to fabric that is treated with myrobalan it turns black due to the reaction between tannin and iron. This black holds fast when it oxidizes and it becomes permanent when boiled with red colouring matter. There a two types of kalams used by the artist. The sharp tipped ones used for outlining and drawing the details and the round broad tipped one used for filling in the sections. Usually a separate kalam is used for each colour or else the wooden rag which forms the tip is changed.
VI.The areas and background meant to be in red are painted with an alum (phitkari) solution that is used as a mordant. Alum being colourless has a fugitive red colour added to it so that it is visible when painted on. This fugitive colour washes off easily. The cloth is then rested for at least 24 hours before the next stage commences.
VII.The cloth is washed in flowing water to remove the excess alum mordant. By washing the excess mordant the artist seeks to avoid the colour from running on to the other sections of the cloth. The cloth is dried very carefully and evenly to prevent overlapping of colours and uneven dyeing.
VIII.The cloth is washed in tree bark (surulupatta) and rice water (chawalkudi).
IX.The cloth is again soaked in milk and myrobalan solution.
X. The background and some other sections are re-painted with the alum mordant in order to obtain a deeper red for the section that is thus treated. This treatment helps to differentiate the two shades of red as this re-mordanted section has a red that is darker than the red of the figures.
XI.The cloth is washed again in flowing water to remove excess colour.
XII.The cloth is boiled in surulupatta and chawalkudi.
XIII.The cloth is bleached overnight once again in sheep, buffalo or goat dung and then dried in the sun for a few days. The cloth is normally dried on the riverbank for bleaching in the sunlight.
XIV.The cloth is washed and treated in milk. The cloth is painted with crushed myrobalan flowers to obtain yellow.
XV.The cloth is washed in flowing water. XVI.The cloth is painted with chawalkudi
XVII.The cloth is painted with an extract of dried pomegranate rind.
XVIII.The cloth is painted with myrobalan flowers and ferrous sulphate which is the second mordant used.
XIX.The cloth is painted with alum and an extract of katha.
The cotton fabric gets its glossiness by immersing it for an hour in a mixture of myrabalam (resin) and cow milk. Contours and reasons are then drawn with a point in bamboo soaked in a mixture of jagri fermented and water; one by one these are applied, then the vegetable dyes. After applying each color, the Kalamkari is washed. Thus, each fabric can undergo up to 20 washings. Various effects are obtained by using cow dung, seeds, plants and crushed flowers. All the areas meant to be red are painted or printed over with the alum solution as a mordant. Mordant is a substance that fixes the natural dye on the material. After applying alum, the cloth is kept for at least 24 hours. Then the excess mordant is removed by washing the cloth under flowing water. The dyeing is done for the red colour by boiling with the red colouring materials. All the portions that are not to be blue are covered with wax. The waxed cloth is immersed in indigo solution. In Srikalahasti, the blue is painted with the kalam. Then the wax is removed by boiling the cloth in water. The yellow is painted on to produce yellow and green.
The cloth is finally washed again and dried before the final colours emerge. However, the use of vegetable dyes and mordants make it still a time consuming process.
HUES OF NATURE
The palette of vegetable dyes was limited & variation in tone was introduced by painstaking repetition to obtain a particular depth of colour. Sometimes a stark background was softened by a dotted pattern. The stark, black outline in the painting was often
softened by another thinner line in red, or soft brown, which served to soften the colours. The main colours used in Kalamkari now are manjishta & surulpattai for reds, myroballam fruit & galls, pomegranate peel, mango bark dust, turmeric powder & flowers of the dadup for yellow colour, brown from catechu & blue from indigo. Kaseem, the mineral black, provides black for outlines & also for deepening other colours. Other colours like green and purple are achieved by treating the blue on sections already dyed yellow and red respectively. Certainly there are religious color codes for the decoration of kalamkari clothes - all gods are blue, female characters are golden yellow, bad characters and demons are red. The water of river Swarnamukhi in Srikalahasti is regarded as excellent for developing the colors.
DESIGNS, MOTIFS & APPLICATIONS
Kalamkari pictures drew inspirations from a variety of mythological subjects. Entire epics, like the Ramayana, the
Mahabharata & the Bhagavata Purana were presented in pictorial form. Such Kalamkari scrolls were huge in dimension, sometimes even ending upto 30 ft. in length 7 3-4 ft. in width. These epics were depicted in segments in which each episode was illustrated with appropriate pictures & descriptive headings written in Telugu or Tamil. Two distinctive streams can be recognized in the Kalamkari temple tradition. One is the earlier folk form, & another a sophisticated form, executed with greater attention to craftsmanship & layout. In Kalahasti, the paintings are full of detail, colour & movement. Even when the painting is a single panel, the multiplicity of figures point to the larger dimensions of the single episode. In some paintings, the emphasis is more on mythology than on technical perfection as is seen in the painting of the Kaliya mardanam. The borders are much elaborate. They have a strict adherence to the pen or the kalam & even border designs are not repeated. There is no shading or an attempt at perspective. The temple tradition of Kalamkari had a larger role to play than the mere making of pictures. The ceremonial requirements of the temple, like asmanagiri, canopies, the cylindrical thombias to be tied to the processional chariots, the banners & flags which were carried during the procession, were all made by Kalamkari craftsmen. The ceremonial flags had auspicious figures like the bull or the hamsa, the torans painted in vibrant colors. The lotus, the palm, the mango, the peacock & the elephant were adopted as elements in the designs. The ‘tree of life’ was a very important symbol. Kalamkari fabrics with non-figurative motifs are used in apparel, home furnishing, wall hangings and even in accessories like bags. The figurative designs are primarily used as decorative wall panels but lately, enterprising designers have adopted the designs in home furnishings as well as apparel and sarees.
The canopies dating from about the 1880s are large but even so space is limited when you are illustrating events from an epic - the size of the Ramayana. There are “extensive Telugu captions” which suggest that they may have been displayed to an audience while a narrator went through each scene of the story. (The image here depicts a Chirala Ramayana scene, Kamadhenu and the parijata tree, with particularly lengthy notes.) The hangings consist of simple pieces of unlined cloth sewn together. They are not designed to be durable especially in a climate like India’s. Many of the kalamkari temple hangings have seen such heavy use that they are in a terrible state. One of the best preserved is a piece from Chirala, Andhra Pradesh, signed and dated by the artist, which was bought almost immediately by the then Director of the Indian Museum in 1883 and so never actually used. As in other fields, practice makes perfect in Kalamkari too. One of the best living artists, Gurappa Shetty, made an “absolutely extraordinary” kalamkari canopy depicting the life of Jesus. The canopy was later bought by the V&A. The representation of Christ is presumably fairly new, but the pre-twentieth century kalamkari artists did not limit themselves to the Ramayana, they also worked on Mahabharata versions as well as regional Telugu literature. There are some kalamkari hangings which focus on a particular temple, such as Srirangam, and illustrate the events from that temple’s mahatmya [devotional Sanskrit text glorifying the local deity] on the border. They have tried out 'harmony themes' too - Hindus visiting mosques, Hindus and Muslims embracing each other and socialising. They've
recently tried out a shandy scene and also of the neem tree and its uses. It may not be possible to see these canopies in their original temple settings, but there are several museums in both India and abroad that house them. In India, the Calico Textile Museum of Ahmedabad is probably the best bet. In London, the British Museum has a few and the V&A itself has about 20 in total. Kalamkari is probably best known in India for its use in kurtas, saris, pajamas and bedsheets. Less well known and certainly less readily available are the hand-painted kalamkari textiles depicting epic and mythical material. Subahu and Maricha pollute the rishis’ sacrifice
Sita and Hanuman in Ravana’s garden, from the kalamkari 5457A in the V&A’s collection
SOCIO ECONOMIC ARTISTS
& THE PRESENT SCENERIO
These works were primarily intended for use as backcloths in temples. The work involves as many as 17 stages with the cloth being washed at every step. A variety of natural products such as buffalo's milk to make the cloth sturdy and dung for bleaching are used. The artist starts his painting project with prayer to Lord Ganesa, as is mandatory in almost all Kalamkari pictures. The Kalamkari craft was a personal craft handed down for generations by father to son. A large number of craftsmen engaged in kalamkari craft in Srikalahasti belong to the Baloja community who were originally bangle-sellers. The main painting is created by the master of the household who is an expert painter, while the minor details are filled in by the other members of his family. Preparing the cloth by bleaching & mordanting by myrobalam, & application of alum is attended to by the women of the household. Today, there are over 300 individuals in and around Sri Kalahasti involved in some aspect of kalamkari work from preparing cloth and dyes, to design motifs and format layout, to final painting and execution. The highest income earned by a craftsman is Rs. 7,000 a month and the lowest Rs. 1,500. There is demand but they are not able to meet it for an artist may not have the particular piece a customer is looking for at that point of time. Except for a few who have developed contacts & are able to market their paintings at fancy prices, the majority of craftsmen sell the paintings to the A.P. Govt. Co-op. Society called Lepakshi. Paintings are purchased by the government emporium on a fixed price of Rs. 300 to 350 per metre. The craftsmen cannot produce more than 2 or 3 pictures of approx.
2 mts. each per month, if paintings of exceptional quality are to be produced. Quality is sometimes affected when artists who depend on quick sales for their day-to-day needs produce too many pieces without devoting adequate time to the execution. In 1991, a co-operative of sorts was set-up in Kalahasti, known as the Srikalahasti Kalamkari Kalarula sangam. This was the first attempt to form a group of about 50 craftsmen to produce kalamkari fabrics as a joint venture. There are now 3 or 4 cooperatives funded by the local industries. The Central Government has many schemes to help the craftsmen. The benefits however are not going to the craftsmen but to the middlemen as the former are preoccupied with their work and have no time for the marketing aspect. Although there are so many voluntary organisations, only 10 per cent of them are serving the craftsmen properly, he feels. The prevailing widespread corruption is worth appalling. Government officers act like brokers and demand a percentage of the sales even at exhibitions. Money is also being made by guides who bring tourists to Kalamkari worksheds in Kalahasti. They are fleecing foreigners.
FUTURE OF AN ANCIENT ART
The Kalamkari carried on & shaped by village artisans as a living tradition is now in a process of disintegration. It is in dusty piles that Kalamkari paintings can now be discovered in various government emporia & fails to catch the attention of the discerning buyer. Kalamkari saris have a good market and the wall hangings do well too. Kalamkari artists have a bright future. There are crores of engineers and doctors in the country but only a handful of Kalamkari artists. Such a sense of self-worth and the blend of the savvy and sincere is what reassure those concerned about the future of their craft traditions. The ebb and flow of kalamkari popularity continues to plague the artistic community at Sri Kalahasti, however at the moment there is an upsurge in interest in the art form by designers, NGOs and entrepreneurs living and working in nearby cities. A range of products are now created using kalamkari cloth and are available for sale at craft exhibitions, small boutiques and from the artists directly. In addition to the traditional style narrative wall hangings artists also create hand painted saris, dupattas, personal items and home accessories. This style owes its present status to Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhayay who popularised the art as the first Chairperson of the All India Handicrafts Board. Only natural dyes are used in Kalamkari and it involves numerous painstaking steps. The J. J. School of Art, Mumbai is one such beneficiary. They are presently experimenting with this art form on Silk Ikat (i.e., tie and dye textiles popular in Pochampally, Andhra Pradesh). However the timely revival of the intervention of Handicrafts Boards under the leadership of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, a few surviving practitioners of the craft were traced & thus the craft was saved from total extinction. In present times, govt. agencies with even less perception than the British administrators of yesteryears, commission Kalamkari artworks
with a misguided sense of promoting traditional arts, which only highlights the decadence. It is unfortunate that traditional craftsmen have lost faith in their own heritage & are led astray by the glitter of the present day textile market. There is a craze to be modern & introduce new colours to keep up with the changing social patterns. They copy new designs, which are bizarre & totally out of character & use cheap chemical dyes for easier production. There is no agency for proper designing, nor market-oriented selling. The Kalamkari heritage with its beautiful & vibrant colors, its eco-friendly nature, has a great potential as a vital component in the fashion trade. Proper design inputs would go a long way to present this craft in a modern setting, without losing its moorings in tradition.
Professor Anna L. Dallapiccola, former Professor of Indian Art at the South Asia Institute at Heidelberg, Germany, recently wrote the British Museum’s catalogue of South Indian Paintings and is currently working with the kalamkari collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).
FROM THE MOUTH OF NEWSPAPERS ‘Dwaraka’: Reviving the age-old kalamkari art Purushottam, an impoverished kalamkari artist from the temple town of Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh arrived in Bangalore, a few years back with beautiful mythological cloth panels in his hands and tears in his eyes. His debt-ridden condition moved Anita Reddy, a social activist, working for the urban poor for over 20 years, to take up cudgels on their behalf, resulting in setting up of the philanthropic NGO ‘DWARAKA (Development of Weavers and Rural Artisans in Kalamkari Art) with the support of the Ramanarpanam Trust initiated by her father Dwarakanath. A visit to Srikalahasti some years ago was an eye-opener for Anita, who found an impoverished weaving community, on the brink of extinction. With a lot of persuasion, she motivated two local practitioners Nagaraj and Gopi to teach their traditional male-centric skills to 25 local girls who were taught for over a year by the duo and paid a stipend of Rs 300 a month. The programme helped in stimulating higher levels of selfconfidence and self-reliance among girls who have now started generating income for their survival. In addition to these girls, many other artists too have started identifying themselves as one unit, under the banner of DWARAKA. A revolving fund was set up for weavers who were brought together as smaller selfhelp groups to help them reduce their debts and procure raw materials and recondition their looms, Anita says. The entire activity has been envisaged exclusively to make the community economically secure and has been established as non- profit venture, she says. DWARAKA also opened its marketing outlet and store in Bangalore two years back. Raji Narayan, coordinator of the project, has been instrumental in coordinating the designing of different ensembles and artefacts available at the outlet and giving them the “necessary contemporary touch.” “The earning of girls working for DWARAKA today has gone up from a mere Rs 600 to Rs 6000”, Ramakrishnan, financial director of the organisation says. While
DWARAKA’s first year brought in about Rs 20 lakh, exhibitions at New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore through Delhi-based NGO ‘Dastakar’, have been its major successes, he says. Antique saris are in vogue Cashing in on this demand for traditional and antique saris, the apparel chain Fabindia set up an exclusive stand for saris. This is the first in a series of a proposed chain devoted to traditional saris with contemporary looks and matching silk and cotton cholis. Every sari has been handwoven by rural artisans at the chain's 17 communityowned companies in villages, where artisans own 26 percent of the stakes. Fabindia has created three lines of saris - the "traditional" line featuring crafts-based saris; "contemporary", a collection that uses traditional techniques to create a modern idiom; and a "revival" line that brings back saris that are in danger of dying out. "Traditions like silk Telia Rumals, Koraput saris, Upadas, Ajrakh print on gajji silk, hand-painted kalamkari, madhubani paintings on maheshwari and chanderi and jamdaanis are dying because of lack of support," explains Prableen Sawhney, spokesperson for Fabindia. "The lure of the traditional Indian sari from the states is evergreen," said Delhi-based designer-cum textile revivalist Madhu Jain. She is working with former supermodel-turnedgrassroots textile activist Milind Soman for the past nine years to revive the ancient "ikkat" and "kalamkari" saris and weaves in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.
Online edition of India's National Newspaper, Wednesday, Nov 05, 2003 - Fabric makeover Kalamkari gets a fillip at the hands of graduating students of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, writes RADHIKA RAJAMANI FASHION CAN be fun, wacky, avant-garde, yet serious too. It is all about reinvention and revitalisation as well. This was amply reflected in the ensembles designed by the graduating students of FDIT (Fashion Development and Information Technology) of National Institute of Fashion Technology. Age-old textiles and embellishments have been given a makeover fabrics, textures, surface ornamentation have been developed and teamed with accessories by students. Old craft, contemporary treatment is the bottom line. Soumya has given a `facelift' to Kalamkari, an ancient craft of Andhra Pradesh, through her theme "The Art of Regeneration" at the Design Paradigm 2003. “I want to bring back Kalamkari into fashion by contemporising a traditional craft," says Soumya full of enthusiasm. She chose to depict Kalamkari as body art and tattooing. Soumya experimented in different colours. "Kalamkari uses few colours. By trial and error I worked on colours and developed purple - an unused one." Denims, corduroy and knits were the
fabrics she worked on. The motifs on the clothes were hand painted in vegetable dyes by her. The body art and tattoo was reflected in stockings and rivets in the clothes. Surface textures were interesting and the designer herself wore a kameez with a hand-painted Kalamkari goddess. This budding designer's ultimate aim is to incorporate Kalamkari into Western wear. Both Soumya and Hari Gopal in their own way aim to uplift the crafts to ensure larger markets - even international.