Expo organized in Kolkata to revive the ancient art form Kalamkari

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2014-11-17 16:00:00 – Kolkata

Kalamkari or Qalamkari is an art form of hand printing or block printing normally done on cotton fabrics using only vegetable dyes or natural colours. Kalamkari paintings on textiles is said to have originated and flourished in India, possible in Tanjore, in the late 16th or early 17th century under the patronage of the Mughal emperors. But, with the passage of time the ancient art form Kalamkari has faded into stupor.

Some of the oldest specimens of Kalamkari paintings on textiles that are very rare to find even in museums within the country has been found preserved in a museum in France on the Swiss border.

The textile gallery of the Indian Museum will be showcasing the world famous 'Tapis Moghol' — some of the most elaborate designs replete with mysterious animals, birds, foliage and flowers — that hold the key to many stories of the times.

The 'Tapis Moghol', dates back to the late 16th or early 17th century, has been preserved for the world at the En Musea De L'Impression Sur Etoffes De Mulhouse or the Museum of Printed Textiles at Mulhouse, France.

Kalamkari paintings in its earliest form were motifs painted on large wall hangings that were used to decorate the altar behind the deity. Kalamkari, though, is not a lost art form in the sense that it is still practised in both the painted and block printed versions. But, we have lost most of the original designs that were popular when it was used as an altar backdrop in South Indian temples.

Ruby Palchowdhury, spokesperson of the Crafts Council of West Bengal, said that the exhibition will give the city a glimpse of the Funffrock collection. A gentleman called Funffrock, who was an employee of the French East India Company, was posted in Tanjore. The Frenchman was immensely interested in the traditional art form and got a cotton cloth , measuring eight feet by eight feet, done up with rich intricate designs that showcased the best motifs of that time. With time, this became the focal exhibit, around which the other collections of the period grew.

Textile and culture ministries and the Alliance Francaise have funded the expo that will have 25 panels to show off design details and the stories underneath. The exhibition has been curated by ethnic historian Lotika Varadarajan.

Kalamkari art has been practiced by many families in Andhra Pradesh and over the generations has constituted their livelihood. There are two distinctive styles of kalamkari art in India - one, the Srikalahasti style and the other, the Machilipatnam style of art.

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