Kerala_Main.jpg
Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta

Copper market lamps

Copper market lamps

Vasantham light displayed at Kerala Sutra exhibition.

Aranmula kannadi is special type of mirror produced in Kerala.

Kathakali, one of the oldest theatre forms in the world.

Leather puppetry, a form of shadow puppet theatre.

Vasantham light displayed at Kerala Sutra exhibition.

Kerala hand painted mural at Pundareekapuram Temple.

Shringaar Wall with Diya Panel.

Rava Ravana Leather Puppet Glowing Sculpture

The Prabha wall light with the Kerala style of mural painting.

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Showcase 30 Sep 2015

Kerala Sutra

A collection of light installations by Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta for Mango Tree Crafts and Design.

Colour Quotient interviews designers Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta about Kerala Sutra—a pioneer project where indigenous craft has been partnered with industry innovations in an effort to bring India’s craft tradition to the forefront, through design. The craft skills from Kerala form an integral part of this exhibition of light installations. The key theme of this project has been to re-discover, re-interpret, re-present traditional objects and craft pieces to create unique light installations, both in function and art.

Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta

How did the project emerge and what led you to start working on Kerala Sutra?

The history of Kerala, dates back more than several millennia. From as early as 3000 BC, Kerala had established itself as a major spice trade centre. This level of connectivity and exposure transformed this region into a highly evolved society and a cradle for a  wide range of craft practices. The key theme of this design project has been to re-discover, re-interpret, and re-present these traditional objects and crafts practices of Kerala, as a collection of twenty light installations. 

The word Kerala is first recorded as ‘Keralaputra’ in a 3rd-century BCE rock inscription left by the Maurya emperor Asoka.

Therefore, the story of this land is ancient and deeply rooted in legends and mythology. Our effort has been to narrate the story of Kerala in the most comprehensive manner, by stringing together five key elements that give a framework to this design project.  They are Land, Legend, Legacy, Love, and Lifestyle. These five elements are like five chapters in a book that have been linked together by the thread of time, therefore the use of the metaphor ‘Sutra’. The result is a fascinating overview not only of the treasures of the glorious past of Kerala but of its significance in the future.

How were the crafts selected?

The crafts were selected from the length and breadth of Kerala. We looked at crafts that involved both hard and soft material. We also explored performance art and the craft associated with such traditional art forms. We wanted to explore crafts that might have had royal patronage as well as local crafts used for making everyday objects.

Please talk a little bit in detail about the process you followed for the design. 

We have a passion to explore traditional crafts, re-interpret them through the prism of technology and create contemporary products that are global in appeal but local in nature. 

We design products for our own product line as well as for our client projects. When we develop products for our own range, we try to narrate human stories that form the context of the craft that we want to explore. When we design a project for a client, we explore the local culture, inspirations, and materials to give a unique identity to the project. This thought process gave rise to the Zero Kilometre™ approach. 

Sustainable thinking does involve a certain amount of planning at the initial stages of any project. But in the long run it adds value to our designs. We feel more and more people want to buy products with a conscience, in fact we refer to it as green luxury.

Copper market lamps

Copper market lamps

The interaction of light and colour and material is interesting across the collection, but is there a favourite product each of you have in particular?

Sahil: My favourite piece is the Rava Ravana Leather Puppet Glowing Sculpture. This piece captures the dynamism and movement of a traditional Kerala leather puppet show, along with its earthy vegetable dye colour palette. It also exhibits the symbolisms of the hand punched motifs that are specific to the characters from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The sculpture is designed like a cubist painting and brings out the duality of life, narrated through mythological characters.

Leather puppetry, a form of shadow puppet theatre.

Sarthak: I really enjoyed making the Prabha wall lamp. The conception of this design took place while we were scouting through the craft cluster in Kerala. We were documenting the bell metal craft in a small town called Nadavaramba, where we discovered this floral shaped object called the prabha. This metal and glass object is used as a halo, behind the head piece of deities in temples and churches of Kerala. A small oil lamp is placed at the centre of this object and the light is reflected by this multifaceted prabha to create an effect of a halo. 

We have recreated the same object in brass with silver finish, combined it with hand painted Kerala mural paintings that have been transferred on to glass, using state-of-the-art technology from Somany. The Prabha light celebrates the Shringaar Rasa and depicts a woman who is adorning herself for her lover.

Rava Ravana Leather Puppet Glowing Sculpture

The Prabha wall light with the Kerala style of mural painting.

Was there a defined colour palette from the start, or did it evolve organically from the crafts chosen?

Yes, the colour palette has been developed from the crafts we have chosen. The colours are bright yet earthy. This is because many of the crafts we have explored use vegetable dyes and organic colours which have a distinct character. We have also drawn references from the lush green Kerala landscape, the terracotta rooftops, the use of white along- side gold and red, and the vibrant mural paintings that once adorned the palaces and temples of Kerala.

 

IMAGES

• Profile image by Supriya Batra, courtesy of Sahil & Sarthak
• Exhibition images by Sahil Bagga, courtesy of Sahil & Sarthak
• Product images by Bikas Das, courtesy of Sahil & Sarthak
• Sivavkm » commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pundareekapuram_mural.jpg
• Jogesh S » flickr.com/photos/blackfin2/495874906
• P Das Arayil » flickr.com/photos/arayil_p_das/4246694403
• Rajesh Nair » commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aranmula_kannadi.jpg