Lakshmi Madhavan’s set up, showcased on the ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ artwork exhibition in Alappuzha, is an ode to her roots and celebrates the standard weaves of Balaramapuram

Woven into the warp and weft of every white and gold mundum-neriyathum (conventional garment worn by ladies in Kerala) are the threads of a story that inform the story of weavers and the fantastic thing about their craft. Also caught within the threads of the garment are reminiscences of festivals and celebrations and of the numerous ladies who’ve worn them and nonetheless put on them.

An artwork set up by unbiased artist Lakshmi Madhavan, which is centred on the cream-and-gold cloth, is without doubt one of the highlights of ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ (the world is one household), an artwork exhibition at Alappuzha, curated by artist and Kochi Biennale Foundation president Bose Krishnamachari. Featuring works of 267 artists, together with 56 ladies, from 15 nations, who hint their roots to Kerala, it is without doubt one of the largest artwork occasions in India.

‘Hanging by a Thread’, the artwork set up by Lakshmi Madhavan on the ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ exhibition at Alappuzha

Being held at a number of venues in Alappuzha, Mumbai-based Lakshmi’s artwork set up, ‘Hanging by a Thread’, impeccably ties up artwork with life. Working on the the theme of ‘home,’ her work is a tribute to her paternal grandmother, Sathyabhama.

“Being brought up in Mumbai and having studied in different places in India and abroad, home was becoming a difficult space to define or identify. I realised that home for me lay in the folds of my grandmother’s crisp mundum-neriyathum with its faint aroma of starch. This period of lockdown and social isolation have brought into sharp focus the idea of a space called home — a safe space and a comfort zone. For me, all that was symbolised in my grandmother, who lives in Vadakara, Kozhikode. Widowed at an early age, she only wore the settu mundu. She was specific about the colour and width of the kara and the kasavu. This work is my ode to her,” says Lakshmi.

Exploring Issues Of Identity

Through the work, Lakshmi has additionally tried to discover the problems of identification, heritage, tradition and area, one thing she would need to cross on to her two-year-old son. Many of her questions, explorations and solutions discover expression in her set up on the Port Museum.

Lakshmi Madhavan engaged on her set up ‘Hanging by a Thread’ for the ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ exhibition at Alappuzha

Her set up is a tangible piece of artwork that encapsulates intangible reminiscences and feelings, palpable within the texture, materials, colors and use of lettering. The layered work celebrates her roots in Kerala, her grandmother and the work of the weavers in Kerala, lots of whom are struggling to maintain their legacy alive.

Six 10-feet lengthy panels of kasavu fabric hanging on the wall have English and Malayalam phrases. An heirloom handloom piece, given to her by her grandmother, occupies satisfaction of place. “Around 10,000 letters make up words and sentences that resonate with conversations I have had with my grandmother,” explains Lakshmi.

During her summer time holidays, the artist remembers chatting with her grandmother in English whereas Sathyabhama at all times spoke to her solely in Malayalam, regardless that she may converse in English. “The words and dialogues in English and Malayalam have a significance, it is connected with woman and home in some way or the other. Moreover, they are identity markers in my life, connecting me to my lineage, culture and mother tongue,” says the artist.

Work in progress on the set up ‘Hanging by a Thread’ by Lakshmi Madhavan for the ‘Lokame Tharavadu’ exhibition at Alappuzha

Having selected how she would need her artwork work to be, Lakshmi had a troublesome time discovering weavers to custom-make the panel and convincing them as to why she was doing it. Balaramapuram in Thiruvananthapuram is without doubt one of the oldest weaving centres in Kerala, well-known for its kasavu-edged cotton fabric. “I decided to get the panels woven there. Phone conversations proved futile. Finally, with less than three months to go for the show, I decided to visit Balaramapuram and meet the weavers,” recollects Lakshmi.

Although most of the weavers discovered it tough to barter the looped and rounded letters of the Malayalam alphabet on the loom, Lakshmi refused to surrender on her idea. Finally, she met an aged grasp weaver within the weavers’ road in Balaramapuram. She instructed him the explanation behind the idea and why she was eager on doing it to have fun her grandmother and her legacy.

“He understood how passionate I was about the project and after he heard me out, he teared up. He shared his anxieties about the family profession ending with him, as he was not sure if his son was interested in continuing it, though weaving had been their profession for centuries. He wanted to be a part of my project and agreed to go the extra mile.”

Once the panels have been prepared, Lakshmi spent greater than 10 hours every day for almost a month at her studio in Mumbai to create with gold thread the phrases in Malayalam that embellish them.

The response of viewers has been heartening. While some guests discovered it resonating with their reminiscences of house, some felt it captures the essence of the Malayali girl, who’s caught between patriarchy and the matrilineal system of inheritance.

Mentored by up to date artist Jitish Kallat, Lakshmi has labored with German artist Bernhard Martin on the Summer Academy in Salzburg and French artist Nicolas Menard in Paris. Lakshmi has exhibited in Mumbai, Kochi, Salzburg, Copenhagen. Her work, ‘I need some air’, was awarded the perfect set up at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, 2018.

The exhibition is open until June 30.

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  • 'Hanging by a Thread
  • 'Lokame Tharavudu' art exhibition
  • Alappuzha
  • Alappuzha Lakshmi Madhavan
  • Balaramapuram
  • Balaramapuram News
  • bose krishnamachari
  • grandmother Sathyabhama
  • handloom
  • installation
  • Kochi Biennale Foundation
  • ladies in Kerala
  • Lakshmi Madhavan
  • lakshmi madhavan artist
  • Malayalam alphabet
  • Mumbai
  • mundum-neriyathum
  • Post Museum
  • weaving centre
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