India - Kalamkari


















The kalamkari, handpainted cloths of Sri Kalahasti, Andra Pradesh, works of art drawn entirely by hand, were origionally created predominantly for the temples as narrative murals.These murals tell the stories of the great Hindu epics in picture form. Earlier this century Christian missionaries commissioned artists to create murals telling the story of Christ. I have seen panels where all religions have been included as an ecumenical statement. 
In addition to the epic murals, the Tree of Life theme is very popular and comes in many forms.Artists are also branching out and using the medium for their purpose. Mr. M.Kailasam drew a series called Fantastic Birds to commemmorate the Centenary of Salim Ali, the Father of Indian ornithology. His work depicting fanciful fish using only madder and indigo has a strong design element.

Mr Gurawapa Chetty, another skilled Sri Kalahasti artist has travelled overseas demonstrating these techniques for the Indian Government when the All India Exhibition travelled around the world in the 1980's.The government started a training school to preserve this skill, but unfortunately it is not continuing.
The process involves treating of cotton fabric with buffalo dung. Then myrobalan, a tanin containing pod is pounded and soaked to produce a liquid This is combined with milk and used to soak the fabric. The myrobalan acts as a mordant binding the dye to the cloth and the milk keeps the drawn line from running. The initial drawing is done with rusty iron solution, created by soaking rusty metal with molassas, water, and bran for 14 days. This solution is fairly clear and only develops a black colour when in contact with the myrobalan treated cloth.Then an alum solution is painted on areas where red is needed. After drying for one day, the cloth is boiled with madder, vegetable dye. The red only penetrated the areas treated with alum. Many more processes are used for the remaining colours. 

Copyright 1997-2012 Dana McCown *