WCC – Gallery collaborative exhibitions is part of ‘Kaivalam: The Future is Handmade,’ a world craft summit organised by the World Crafts Council.

‘Weaving Together Yesterday and Tomorrow’ is the theme of the inaugural WCC – Manjal Gallery exhibition, which opens at Gallery Manjal on September 24. The exhibition will showcase a collection of a traditional and ancient ‘kuttans’ or woven palmyra baskets with intricate weaves like ‘sohi,’ ‘gundamani,’ floral motifs and bead embellishments. These kottans with a square base and round rims were locally made and used by the Chettiar community as containers for gifts at ritual and festive occasions.

Colourful array

On display alongside the old ‘kottans’ will be the colourful new kottans being made by Visalakshi Ramaswamy’s M Rm Rm Cultural Foundation which has resurrected the languishing craft in villages in the Chettinad region. Today more than 100 women in five foundation centres handcraft packing boxes, baskets and kottans in blazing reds, oranges, blues and in mixed colours. The exhibition will also have a section of vegetable dyed kottans and a demonstration of a craft which weaves together ecological sensitivity with hand craft.

The Chettinad kottan is woven from tender palmyra leaves which are stripped from the tree during the summer months. The leaves are dried in the shade for five or six days. The leaves are then spliced into wide strips and sorted out, after which they are dyed in water heated to a boil with the colour added to it. The leaves are then dried in the shade.

In the process of weaving, the leaves are gripped by the feet and kept in place with the knees, jack knifed while the base is built by bending over and inserting palm leaf strips cross wise. The sides are then woven according to the shape and design. The final stage is the rim with other processes and extra weft for more complex designs being added. Today the kottan has been adapted to suit contemporary needs and has been reinvented as lifestyle and fashion accessories.

The exhibition is on till October 12 at Manjal Gallery, 70 M.R.C. Nagar Main Road, MRC Nagar, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai -28. For details of other WCC-Gallery exhibitions across Chennai go to ttp://www.worldcraftscouncil.org/, www.worldcraftscouncil.org

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