Sessions on Kalamkari and Madhubani art at SPIC MACAY event saw a diverse crowd trying their hand at the crafts

Bent over an overflowing tub as water gushes out of a garden pump, 47-year-old Kalamkari artiste Niranjan Jonnalagadda’s hands are at work, repeating a process — dip, spin, wash and dunk.

Around 20 people huddle around him, watching with bated breath. The painted pieces of cloth they have been working on undergo the ultimate test — that of water. Will they emerge as smudged masses of bleeding colour? Fortunately, no one faces heartbreak.

The Kalamkari workshop was one among a series of ‘intensives’ with experts, organised by SPIC MACAY as part of a 2nd international convention at IIT, Madras (IIT-M). It found diverse takers, ranging from school children to professional art teachers.

Suresh Kumar, an English high-school teacher, had travelled all the way from Mannaparam in Kerala with his family for the experience. He says, “I find that there are very few spaces which allow people to celebrate a higher aesthetic sense. I thought that through the workshop I will be able to explore this.”

For Coimbatore-based class VII student Pratham, it was just the novelty of painting with a chiselled bamboo shoot that attracted him to the session. He exclaims, “I can’t wait to go back home and tell my friends about this.”

A fourth-generation Kalamkari artiste from Andhra Pradesh, Jonnalagadda highlights the workmanship which goes behind each product.

He says, “It takes as many as 25 days to produce a single Kalamkari piece. With conferences like this, I hope people learn to value the process that goes into making it.”

Meanwhile, in another room, people poured over papier-mâché figures in an attempt to perfect the sleight of hand required for Madhubani art. Hema Devi, a Madhubani artiste from Bihar who specialises in working with papier-mâché, says, “I feel happy to be able to spread what I have been doing for over 20 years to people who are so eager to learn.”

Emran Ullah, an Afghani college student of Computer Science from Pune University, confesses to having never heard of Madhubani before while standing proudly next to a map of his country that he had made using Madhubani papier-mâché.

On till June 14, intensives are being organised in classical dance, music, and other crafts. Hindustani music, Mohiniattam, Patua painting, and Mughal wood-carving are some of the art forms that jostle for space in the corridors of Kendriya Vidyalaya at IIT-M.

Participants, who have registered in advance, will receive an opportunity to be mentored by specialists in the field.

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