Yesterday I went to a seminar with a friend at a local organization. I thought the seminar was going to be about this, which looked very cool and interesting. However the three speakers addressed related but different topics. All of the speakers were from India (at least originally). Two of them discussed their work with Indian women (and sometimes girls). One of them was an artist who does art workshops with women and children as a means of empowerment. Her art, print work, is based on the ritual art of kolam.
She explained kolam as a ritual done in south India (where she is from) by the women of the household. Each morning, before dawn, women will rise and use this time as time for themselves--for meditation and reflection. A woman will go to the threshold of her home and, using ground rice powder, will paint these intricate geometric patterns--using one continuous line--on her doorstep. The design will stay there all day and when people walk on it and bring the rice powder in the house it is considered a blessing. Doing kolam also considered an act of charity since the birds will eat the ground rice powder.
I thought it was a great metaphor for women's work since it is created before the start of the day with a form of household sustenance, involves a lot of work, care and creativity and is then stepped upon until it disappears, only to have a woman recreate it again the next day. How often have the beautiful products of women's daily labor been walked over until it fades? How many generations of women have recreated their craft on a daily basis?
Unfortunately this ritualistic art form is dying out. Here are some examples: