The Tree of Knowledge owes its origins to kalamkari

The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games was a memorable spectacle, receiving praises from viewers, delegates and international media. A sore point, though, is the case of designer Madhu Jain and Milind Soman whose credits were ‘overlooked' for the massive kalamkari installation, Tree of Knowledge.

The Tree of Knowledge is a success story that was handcrafted in Andhra Pradesh with help from kalamkari designer Mamata Reddy. A day after Madhu Jain went to press crying foul over the CWG organising committee not acknowledging her work, we traced the origin of the installation to AP. Mamata Reddy, who has had a 15-year-long association with Madhu Jain, recalls the painstaking efforts of the weavers and kaarigars who made the Tree of Knowledge possible.

“After Madhu got an order from the CWG for the installation, she came down to Tirupati. We worked on the designs, getting the chinar leaves pattern done in kalamkari tradition. The traditional kalamkari design Tree of Life paved way for Tree of Knowledge and the artisans worked for two months to complete the 110feet installation,” says Mamata. If racing against the short deadline wasn't enough, the prolonged monsoon made the task tougher. “Kalamkari work nearly comes to a standstill during monsoons but we had to finish it before the Games. The never-ending monsoon posed a threat,” says Mamata. The Tree of Knowledge was done on handloom cotton and transferred to silk.

Madhu Jain, Milind Soman and Hyderabad-based Mamata Reddy may have been left out, but in the end it was kalamkari's moment of glory on world stage.