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Meet the Artisans of Kalamkari

Kalamkari is a printing technique primarily practised in the city of Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The areas involved in this craft are Pedana, Kappaladoddi, Polavaram and the villages surrounding these areas. The main producer communities that are engaged in Kalamkari are the Devangas, the Padmasalis, the Kannebhaktulu and the Senapathalu.

An aged worker of the community
An aged worker of the community

Self-sufficiency is practiced by these communities who weave the fabrics themselves before the process of dyeing and printing. Only vegetable dyes are used, which are extracted from the locally available materials. The blocks used in Kalamkari are usually produced by specialist block makers, though several printers prefer to produce these themselves.

A block used for the printing of Kalamkari  Several people involved in the process
L: A block used for the printing of Kalamkari
R: Several people involved in the process

The dyers and painters can be Hindus or Muslims, chiefly depending on the area to which they belong. A huge difference in the motifs of Kalamkari is visible in the works of these two distinct communities. The former community depicts their deities in their work, while floral motifs with a Persian influence are more prominent in the art of the latter.

A woman using a kalam
A woman using a kalam

The Jatra festival, celebrated by these communities, is a ten-day affair in the village of Nunna where the people of the Yadava caste visit the Srikalahasti and buy Kalamkari paintings from the artisans. This is followed by several rituals involving the exchange of old and new Kalamkari artworks. The Madigas of Andhra Pradesh, who trace their roots to Karthaveerarjuna, celebrate the Mathamma festival where they pay a visit to the Srikalahasti artisans and paint Mathamma’s and Karthaveerarjuna’s figures. These Kalamkari artworks are later put on display during the festival.

Women empowerment through Kalamkari
Women's empowerment through Kalamkari

The status of GI (Geographical Indication) was given to Machilipatnam Kalamkari in 2012, limiting the production of this technique to the town of Pedana and the vilages of Machilipatnam, Polavaram and Kappaladoddi in Guduru mandals of Krishna district.

Intricate designing of Kalamkari
Intricate designing of Kalamkari

 

Images: Wikimedia Commons, The Hindu, Saha pedia, Magnamags, Jiyo, Hyderabad First