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The Mystery of Kolam

Story and photos by Adam Atkinson
September 19, 2011

"Even 30 years later I'm still captivated by the mystery of Kolam," said Bruce Wall September 15, at a well-attended lecture in the Lipkin Theatre on Northampton Community College's Main Campus.  The associate professor of fine art first studied the ancient folk art form of Kolam three decades earlier in India during a residency was funded by a Fulbright-Hayes grant.

His most recent lecture on Kolam was part of a series of events he planned with his colleague and collaborator, Assistant Professor of Communication Design Josh Miller. The programming included an exhibit titled "Indian Kolam Traditional Designs and New Media" which can be viewed in the gallery of Communications Hall on NCC's Main Campus through October 23.

On September 13 NCC students, faculty and staff were invited to create their own Kolams during a workshop in a large lounge on campus.  To inspire them Wall and fine arts major Elizabeth Joy Whitford created a massive Kolam, approximately 12 feet in diameter, in the center of the room.

Interim Director of Early Childhood Education Anuradha Sachdev provided an account of her experiences making Kolam as a child growing up in India. Those new to the art form were guided by Sachdev and three local women, Saroja Acharya, Nalini Aro, and Ramani Raghabachari, who also grew up in India.

Early the next day, Wall and Miller started recruiting their students and anyone who could hold a piece of chalk to cover all three of NCC's campuses with Kolam. It only took a couple of hours before the walkways were filled with the designs created in the spirit of welcoming all things auspicious.

Following the lecture on September 15, Wall and Miller presented their show to the public. The response of the large crowd was proof they had taken a centuries old practice and successfully re-created it using both modern and traditional mediums.

Don't miss the exhibit (weekdays 8-10 and Saturdays 9-5) or these photos of Kolam all over campus!

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