Tamil Nadu Artisans Hope To Revive Traditional Palm Craft With Modern Display

The installations are made of strings with some 5,000 "olai kizhis" or parrots made of palm leaves and flowers made of sholapith from natural reeds

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The idea, organisers say, is to revive forgotten crafts by giving them a brand new contemporary form


Chennai:  Contemporary looking 30-feet-high colourful art installations stun visitors at a mall in Chennai. But a closer look reveals these are old traditional palm leaf and shola pith made parrots and flowers that have been given a beautiful contemporary form.

The installations are made of strings with some 5,000 "olai kizhis" or parrots made of palm leaves and flowers made of shola pith from natural reeds. The idea, organisers say, is to revive forgotten crafts by giving them a brand new contemporary form.

The mall zeroed in on palm leaf and reed-made craft as a mark of welcoming the spring season. "It's a great opportunity to educate the public to make them aware what is available in our traditional crafts as well as giving these artisans a better life. It's indeed a good initiative by Phoenix Mall," said the curator Malini Narasimhan.

Meera Balakrishnan, a teacher and who loves traditional crafts, said, "It's a dying art form and once it's gone, it's gone. It's important that we include it in public spaces like this."
 
chennai pheonix mall

But contemporary art forms being used in a large-scale model could fetch a steady source of income

For Krishnaswamy, an artisan from Tamil Nadu near Pollachi, initiatives like this could open new opportunities. He sells each palm leaf made parrot for Rs 8 and he gets orders only during weddings.

But contemporary art forms being used in a large-scale model could fetch a steady source of income, besides preserving the vanishing craft. His workshop on "olai kizhi making" was popular many people learning from him.

"Initiatives like this save our craft from dying. We get revenue as well. We are happy," he said.

T Chandran, another artisan, said, "This has set the bar high and I'm sure people would expect more such innovation."

S Tushara, a student, has decided to pursue the craft after attending the workshop. "This generation has forgotten old crafts, but the next generation would remember this if we take up this," she said.

It's taking an old traditional craft to a new high as a contemporary art installation. This innovation, many say, is worth replicating to give disappearing crafts a new lease of life.


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