Kalamkari is a traditional method of producing hand-painted or block-printed cotton, using natural dyes. It derives its name from ‘kalam’, meaning pen and ‘kari’, meaning work – penwork.
In ancient times, groups of singers, musicians and painters, called chitrakattis, moved from village to village telling tales of Hindu mythology. Over time they began to illustrate their accounts using large panels of canvas painted with dyes extracted from plants. These murals are thought to be the first form of Kalamkari. In some families the skill has been passed down through the generations.
In 2006 our partner organisation in Tamil Nadu, CRUSADE, trained a member of staff in the art. After this, ten more local self-help group members were given training. Today, two of these women are employed at the CRUSADE training centre in Thinaipakkan, Tamil Nadu. They produce cards, bags and wall hangings which are sold in the UK and India and for which they are paid a fair price.