Indian painted textiles: The ancient and intricate Art of Kalamkari at Stroud's Museum in the Park

By Culture24 Staff | 23 August 2010
a photo of two Indian women painting textiles

Exhibition: The Art of Kalamkari at The Museum in the Park, Stroud, Gloucestershire from August 28 until September 26 2010.

Stroudwater Textile Trust is celebrating their 10th anniversary with a vibrant exhibition and education project that brings South Indian textile artists and their wares to Stroud, a town once world-famous for its own textile industry.

The Art of Kalamkari is the UK's first exhibition devoted to the historic craft and reveals a glorious and colourful tradition of South Indian textile painting which was historically used for producing works of art for temples and kings.

Mixing intricate free hand drawing and block printing, Kalamkari uses only natural dyes in seventeen painstaking steps. The results are rich, colourful patterns and drawings depicting scenes of village life, Hindu gods and goddesses, demons and animals, birds, flowers and trees of life.

Although the focus is on the patterns and vibrant colours of the textiles themselves, the exhibition is being billed as a “feast for all the five senses” with explorations of Indian stories, language, food and music supporting the central exhibits.

The seeds of the ambitious project were sown several years ago when a group of Stroudwater Textile Trust members met a family of Kalamkari artists in Sri Kalahasti, Andra Pradesh.

“We had the warmest of welcomes and were overwhelmed by the riot of colour and impressed by how much work was needed to produce the simplest of images,” remembers Camilla Hale, exhibition project manager. “We just had to invite them over to Stroud to share their textile techniques with local schools, families, artists and community groups.”

The work has been brought over to the UK by sisters Munirathnamma and Vijayalakshmi and their brother, Viswanath. Celebratory activities for all ages will be on offer during the opening August Bank Holiday Weekend with South Indian food and music.

Schools workshops will also explore how cloth-making techniques traditionally used in the Stroud District are relevant today, and how different cultures and countries influence each other over time.

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