My dress is all about Kalamkari work (fish design)
I knew about Kalamkari work before coming to Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh but finding my way to Pedana village and its one-of-its-kind, authentic house museum, was not easy. I learned about Pedana and the Kalamkari art museum at the dance village of Kuchipudi. One of the dance teachers there, guided me to this treasure trove so that I could learn more about the traditional Indian textile art. As luck would have it, I was on a road trip, had a car to myself and thus, I quickly added Pedana to my itinerary.
Machilipatnam to Pedana
I was already on my way to Machlipatnam in Krishna district, the place where Kalamkari had originated and Pedana village was close-by. What a co-incidence! My driver was happy that he would not have to take a detour. In 2013, Machilipatnam had got the Geographical Indication Registry tag for Kalamkari but yet not many people know about it. The beach with black hued soil is more famous about the place.
Some interesting facts about Kalamkari!
- Kalamkari means penwork.
- It is a free hand drawing.
- It is a type of hand-printed or block printed work used on fabric.
- It is popular in two states, Andhra Pradesh and Telagana and also practiced in some villages in Tamil Nadu.
- Kalam (pen) and kari (craftmanship), came into light under the patronage of Golconda sultanate.
- Some say this art form came later and had evolved from Pattachitra of Orissa, which meant drawing or art work on cloth.
- Back then, some printed cloth were also called ‘Addakam’.
- After the Mughals helped it evolve, the Britishers also loved Indian art and elements of fabric decoration.
- Kalamkari is all about the original designs, natural colors, dyeing and then drying.
- The process of extraction of colours from natural resources were known to only to the artists.
- These days, the fake has actually taken over the market. Even the GI tag did not help the art to bounce back or sell.
- A lot of Dutch people love Kalamkari work
- There are very few artisans in the country who follow the original technique of hand-block printed Kalamkari.
Kalamkari Art Museum by Shri Pitchuka Srinivas
Visit to Pedana is incomplete without taking a look at the authentic Kalamkari work and understanding what it is and its legacy from 11th -12th century. And if one really wants to understand the meticulous art, know about the processes, colors, blocks and the dyeing process containers, you got to visit the private museum of Shri Pitchuka Srinivas. Its like taking a small course in the subject and getting introduced to yet another old tradition of India.
He is among the very few craftsmen who have not surrendered to fake work which is usually screen printed Kalamkari, made with chemical colours. He has lots to tell about hand block-printed Kalamkari. His museum is a beautiful curation to keep the love alive. Kalamkari originated with lots of designs depicting temples, gods, people, trees, leaves and flowers. It was all done with ink made from natural colors. AT his museum, one can really learn all the processes involved. Even the cloth where the designs are printed is not used in its original form. It goes through many steps of being soaked in different liquids to prevent the smudging of the ink.
Even a small negligence is not a good idea because if the color fades or one color mixes with another after one wash, the buyer really gets disappointed. Original creation and hand-made things take time. In fact if you compare, you will be surprised to know that screen printing method hardly takes 40 minutes but block printing or hand painting takes days. That is why, a lot of people started doing Kalamkari for commercial reasons and thus chemical colors came into picture. It was easy and high targets could be met. Mr Pitchuka has been trying his best to educate and spread the need for preserving the originality and authenticity of the art, but not much has been done yet. But once you are there at his workshop and museum, you are sure to fall in love with the real work of labor. Also, it doesn’t harm the environment.
Tree of Life – A gorgeous and authentic Kalamkari work
Tree of Life is a beautiful work displayed at the museum. It is a wall-hanger created with 212 wooden blocks by his team of artists.
Original work is tedious and needs lot of hard-work and patience. Shortcuts are quick but then we lose the art. I was surprised to learn that only 15 percent of authentic Kalamkari work is done in Pedana, rest is all quick work with chemical. So, next time when you get a chance to know about this art, do ask questions. We all need to understand what is real and what is fake. We should also stand in support of the artisans and emphasize on the ban of use of chemicals.
Overall, the idea of curating a art-driven museum in a small town is absolutely amazing. We need more such efforts. And yeah, me and my friend did not return without buying some really cool Kalamkari work. I got a dress stitched out of it. The featured image is all about my Kalamkari dress.