Friday, August 6, 2010

Kalamkari - the textile art form of Andhra Pradesh

Kalamkari refers to a method of painting natural dyes onto cotton or silk fabric with a bamboo pen or kalam. The name kalamkari translates as pen (kalam) work (kari) in Hindi/Urdu, and was most likely derived from trade relationships between Persian and Indian merchants as early as the 10th century CE. 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 name Kalamkari is used prominently today, and is synonymous with both painted and hand blockprinted textiles that incorporate natural vegetable/organically-derived dye stuffs. While there are many forms of Kalamkari throughout India and the world, the origins are in Sri Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh, in South India. You can read more on this art form here.
Yesterday, thanks to my friend Usha (who incidentally blogs here and is an amazing poet), I had the chance to visit The House of Kalamkari and Dhurries, a weavers' workshop at Dargah Hussain Shah Wali (a village on the outskirts of Hyderabad). This is run by 80 year old Suraiya Hasan Bose who feels passionatley about all things Indian. Her uncle worked closely with Subhash Chandra Bose (whose nephew Aurobindo she married) and her father Badrul Hasan started the Cottage Industries Emporium in Hyderabad. As a young girl she has contributed a generous share to the foreign goods bonfire of the Swadeshi Movement. Mahatma Gandhi too has been her idol. When Gandhi first visited Hyderabad' it was in front of Suraiya's house that the first bonfire of English mill-made cloth was lit.
Much later, in 1980, she started Deccan Exports in consultation with John Bissel, FabIndia founder. That same year she started The House of Kalamkari and Dhurries. For the last 25 years she has worked with weavers across the state to resurrect forgotten weaves. Today, in the courtyard of her house there are 20 women working on looms to revive rare exquisite weaves..paithani from Paithan; himroo from Aurangabad; mushroo from kutch and jamavar from Kashmir. Recently the Chowmahallah Palace in Hyderabad commissioned her to design Kalamkari covers for the exhibits in the museum.
Along with exquisite fabrics (bedlinens, tablecloths, clothing) and dhurries in her wokshop, she also has Kondapally wooden toys, Nirmal animals and cast bronze figurines from Orissa - all dying art forms she is trying to revive! As she has no offspring to bequeath her legacy, she has consolidated the looms with a school for poor children saying "if I merge the weaving section with the school trust, no one can take away what we have so lovingly built"! Despite Suraiya's busy schedule' she is at the school every day at 8 am. "What's heartening is' marriage is not a priority for the girls passing out from my school. College is. That's our greatest achievement'" she says' her eyes shining through her bifocals.

This amazing octogenarian has all my admiration for her untiring passion and efforts. Unfortunately, she was not in the workshop yesterday, but I plan to go back often and hopefully get to meet her some day! Here are some pics I managed to sneak in while browsing....the lighting inside wasn't that great...but I hope you can see the beautiful fabrics.





And then of course, there was NO WAY i could leave without buying something....so I got a bedspread in my favorite shade...you guessed it, orange!

15 comments:

GB said...

parroting myself here...lovely post kamini!..I want that bedspread now!!

Sayantani said...

The more I come here the more I fall in love with your blog Kamini. you are wonderful. Indian handicraft and textile are something that is very close to my heart and I dream of working with it in coming days (not that I dont work now...but thats very little). I remember when my Maa was in Kalabhavan (santiniketan) some artisans came to teach them Kalamkari. I was very small at that time and watched maa making the kalam with bamboo stick and thread, colouring the fabric with buffalo milk and iron dust and then making those beautiful pieces that I cherish so much. Its a beautiful art and I will love to visit the workshop once I visit Hyderabad.
between thanks a ton for the saree shop info. am going to Kolkata this month and will definitely pick some for Puja. thanks Dear. you are very very inspiring.

Anu@My Dream Canvas said...

This is a fabulous post Kamini. What a wondeful experience. The bedspread is gorgeous. I have a kalamkari rug my sister in law gave me and I love it!

Sreelu said...

Lovely bedspread, I would have picked Orange too especially burnt Orange my favorite color.

Anpu said...

Lovely post Kamani, Loved the Bedspread and the Dhurries. I have a friend coming here on 23rd of this month...will probably request if he can buy me a Dhurri and a bedspread...

Patricia Torres said...

*sigh* this is way tooooo gorgeous... Loved the orange bedspread... that would be my choice.. I loved.. loved this post.. and the way you've explained in to much detail..

TIP Homes said...

This is a real treasure of a post,Kamini :) Loved reading it and am featuring it on my blog as well. Thanks for sharing

Usha Raman said...

Love it! And that was quick use of the bedspread!

Kitty said...

Hi! does the House of Kalamkari and dhurries have a web site? I am in the US but I would love to purchase some of their lovely kalamkaris. If not, does anyone know of a website where kalamkari can be purchased? tks and great blog!
Carol

Anonymous said...

Lovely pics...I am also trying my level best to help revive this art...http://s997.photobucket.com...help these artisans!!

SRIKANTH SIGNATURE said...

Hello Kanmini,

Good post,though its a late comment,I appreciate you in spreading about Suraiya Hasan and her work. Can u please reply me how to reach the place.

Thank you.

Kamini said...

Srikanth - e mail me (email id on my blog), I'll give you directions.

swathi said...

very nice post Kamini..iam crazy abt handlooms myself...could u please send across the directions to the workshop,to my id...swathir22@yahoo.com...thanku..swathi

Unknown said...

Hi kamini, loved your article on kalamkari...can I ask you if you could share the detailed address of the house of kalamkari..my email id is aviurr@yahoo.com

Saberi Dasgupta said...

Kalamkari art is my most favourite .
I wud request you to let me know hw can I own a rug of the same art.
Where and how can I get in touch wid the owner so that I can buy one for myself 9820173328