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Kōlam artist: K. Chitra

Hello friends! I've more to share from my time in Madurai in this second blog post! Part of my work in India includes attempting to give language to the experiences I am immersed in -- the movement and artistry around me, the stories so generously shared with me. Language-ing my experiences here is not without its own power dynamics. I am a white woman visiting in India and I am not an expert in the forms I am learning or observing. I am, at best, a participant with consent whilst here. With that, I'd like to share the voice and expertise of another artist on the art form, Kōlam. Included are my own reflections -- incomplete, embodied -- which articulate my interest in Kōlam and guide my movement research. My notes on Kōlam: "Beautiful, labyrinthine, skilled, daily, women, ritual, god, disappearing... It is part of the daily work of millions of Indian women. It moves me every day to see women making kōlam in the early morning, to see the kōlam, ubiquitous, yet each is different from the last, on front step after front step. And it is short-lived, Kōlam is gone, or at least smudged, by the end of the day, certainly gone by morning to make anew. This is peoples' public art. It does not live in a museum, it is not for sale. Kōlam signifies something that is shared and understood. For my Kōlam movement study - I did it as a study of points in space, feeling one of Chitra’s kōlam into 3-dimensional space." -Randee

(pictured: K. Chitra)

As a member of the CM Centre staff, Chitra specializes in transcription of spoken/recorded Tamil to written Tamil. Chitra also occasionally teaches

Kōlam at CM Centre. M.Muthu, CM Centre cook and Kōlam artist is also pictured (more about Muthu in an upcoming post).

As part of a recent Tamil language lesson, I interviewed Chitra with five questions, in Tamil, about Kōlam. Thanks to my Tamil teacher and CM Centre director, Dr. V.A.Vidya for her help in translating. For more information on Kōlam check out this article:

(video: Chitra and Muthu creating kōlam)

(pictured: Chitra)

1. Who taught you kōlam?

My mother

(pictured: Chitra and Muthu)

2. How old were you when you first learned?  


(pictured: Chitra and Muthu)

3. Do you do Kōlam every morning?

Yes – after waking, in this order:  Kōlam, Cook, Shower

(pictured: Muthu)

4. Are the Kōlam designs set and/or do you make them up? How do you decide which Kōlam you will make for each day?

In the first moment, when I have the Kōlam Poodi (Kōlam powder) in my palm, I decide the plan for that day’s kōlam. 

(pictured: Chitra and Muthu)

5. Why do you do Kōlam who/what is it for

For God – Kōlam is a boon from God. 

(video: CM Centre Movement Study: kōlam)

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