Placing the spotlight on a craft which is unique to the Jaffna peninsula, Kolam, a collective of designers articulate dexterous artistry in pattern and skill and a first time exhibition of saris, jewellery and handbags from January 10th at Colombo’s flagship sari store, Rithihi. Using locally available materials and reviving this age old craft with its long history which at one time, had almost 10% of the local population directly engaged with the local craft industry, the ethos behind the Kolam Collective, comprising seven designers primarily aims to gain a renaissance for this industry which suffered due to the war.
Adding innovative ideas and creativity to the industry aligned to reflect social change, preserving age old design and traditions via research and archiving these to create ethical design for daily use and empowering vulnerable community groups socially and economically are also facets embedded in the Collective’s aims. Rithihi, which has since inception supported local artisans develop their artistry and skill in age old craft continues to add a resurgence to this tenet by showcasing this beautifully crafted coterie of products in its showroom space.
Funded by the Manitha Neyam Trust, Kolam was mooted in February 2017 by contemporary artists T Shanaathanan and Pradeep Thalawatta in collaboration with graduates from the Art & Design Unit of the University of Jaffna – Catharina Danial, Mano Prashath, Nirojan Geetha, Shironi Joseph, Suntharam Anojan and Vincent Vimal, empowering these graduates to move towards entrepreneurship, while also paving the way for other graduates to be towards self employment. Through information gathered from 78 craftsmen, the Collective unearthed tales on traditional materials, techniques and design which forms the foundation to the unique identity that Kolam has built its brand of creativity on.
“One of our objectivities is to produce user-friendly objects with environmentally-friendly materials that people feel proud to support, wear and gift because they are helping encourage an ethical lifestyle,” they state. “Many of our products have been created with the direct participation of local crafts people as a result of a collective endeavor between artists and artisans. Kolam respects the creation of objects as part of a history of knowledge; techniques and making that have been passed down from one generation to another.”