A chequered history

The seminar on checked and striped textiles of Tamil Nadu will throw light on its cultural impact

March 15, 2018 03:51 pm | Updated 04:14 pm IST

Kattam and Kodu (Checks and Stripes) have been the hallmark of Tamil textiles for centuries. And one of the most interesting of these checked textiles are the Real Madras Handkerchief (RMHK), also known as George, Madras or Guinea cloth. History claims that the Arab merchants trading on the Coromandel coast, were fascinated by the RMHK: in the15th Century the most popular item to be traded was the RMHK-inspired, chequered scarf used by pilgrims who went for Haj.

As the textile trade gained momentum along the coast, the checked lungi, also inspired by the RMHK, became immensely popular in Southeast Asian countries. The checked cloth was exported to Africa and Portugal in 1500s and was even sent to the US and the Caribbean.

DakshinaChitra organises a seminar and exhibition, ‘The Checked fabric of Tamil Nadu — A world traveller’ which will initiate discussion on reviving and popularising the technique.

The seminar will provide a rich insight into the cultural history of the disappeared trade textile. Director of Institute of Indo European Studies, France, Jeyaseela Stephen, will talk on ‘The checked fabric colours and designs exported from the Tamil coast in the early modern world’.M Mohan Rao, president of Rashtriya Chenetha Jana Samakya, Chirala, Andhra Pradesh will speak on the revival of RMHK. A panel discussion on the Future of Checks will be chaired by Deborah Thiagarajan, honorary director of DakshinaChitra.

The seminar also includes paper presentations by Sreemathy Mohan, project co-ordinator and researcher for RMHK and M Vasantha of National Institute of Fashion Technology.

The exhibition to be housed at the Kadambari Gallery, will display sample textiles that tracethe evolution of real madras handkerchief, providing a rich insight into its cultural history.

Kattam and kodu

From March 16 to 18, there will be a display and sale of checked fabrics and textiles. The handloom lungi from weaving societies of Kurinjipadi and checked saris from other Tamil Nadu clusters will be on display.

(The seminar is on March 17, 11 am to 1.30 pm. The exhibition is on till April 30. For more details, 9841436149.)

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