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Craftspersons from India and Malaysia celebrate the "Tree of Life" in an exhibition-cum-sale at Dakshinachitra. On till March 31.

THE "TREE of Life" has a special significance in different cultures and philosophies. With its "roots going deep, trunk reaching heavenward, transcending birth and mortality", one finds mention of it as the Ashwatha tree in the `Katha Upanishad' and in the `Revelations' as bearing abundant fruit and flower. It is the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, the `Celestial Tree' of ancient Egypt and Islam's beloved symbol of art. It is central to the belief systems of the Kayan people of Sarawak! The flowing grace and mystique of the "Tree of Life", interlaced with the colours of fascinating local legend, have been brought to Chennai in an exhibition put together by the Crafts Council of India and the Society Atelier of Malaysia. The symbolism of the"Tree of Life" is celebrated in the folk and tribal art genre, and in the weaves, embroidery and handicraft skills of India and Malaysia.

Using traditional skills on silk, paper, bark and cloth, the Malaysian craftspersons create traditional and contemporary images — Tussar Padan batiks, Ruma Garine's Pua Kumbus and ikat weaving, Ramsay Ong's contemporary bark collages, Micheal Lim's batik paintings and John Nag's handmade plant fibre paper cutouts. A sense of deep involvement with the "Tree of Life" and its philosophy is evident in each frame. Ramsay Ong's bark collage with gauze-like leaves and wooden cutouts has a contemporary appeal, while the Tussar Padan designs, featuring hornbills and arabesques, combine romance and colour with the tree imagery. The batik trees are delicately conceived, be it in beige monochromes or splashes of shocking pink, turquoise blue or eau de nil. EO Designs' indigo "Tree of Life" is a particularly lyrical work as is Narong Daun's `Circle of Life' in bright orange and blue, celebrating a riot of fantastic flowers, animals and stylised intertwining leaves. The universal link of trees and the close cultural links between India and Malaysia are reflected in an Indo-Malaysian collaboration on the "Tree of Life" theme. A batik piece done on silk, the frame has two tigers at the base, a profusion of exotic flowers embellishing the trunk, and a beautiful Indian peacock in the centre.

In the Indian section, traditional craftspersons celebrate the "Tree of Life" with typical exuberance in Kutchi embroidery, Madhubani craft, applique work, Machilipatnam's Kalamkari and carpet weaving. Each exhibit captivates with its intricate craftsmanship, harmonious use of colours and conceptualisation, be it a lovely Sujini embroidery piece with a "Tree of Life" surrounded by women doing their chores or a series of Madhubani art works, featuring the "Tree of Life" in earth colours. The Kalamkari pieces are superb, with intricate detailing and a fine-tuning of motif and colour.The exhibition-cum-sale ends on March 31 at Dakshinachitra, East Coast Road, Muttukadu.


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