If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Friday, July 4, 2008

Random Learning

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:


Sam said...

What beautiful works of art, it makes me realise just how little I actually know about the world and cultures around me!

We should all be creating such pretty yet temporary things.

Amanda said...

Those are beautiful. I'm amazed that creating that sort of beauty can be an every day, ordinary thing.

JaneB said...

A neat analogy! Ever come across the poem 'THe divine office of the kitchen'? A bit dated - my Grandma had it up in her kitchen, calligraphied by my Aunt. The lines "remind me of the things I need/not just to save the atairs/but so that I may perfectly/lay tables into prayers" came into my mind immediately when reading your post and the earlier comments.

Julie said...

This is a fascinating post. And what great examples of beautiful art in everyday life. I wish I could learn how to do it. Thanks for sharing this topic!!