Kolam: An Exercise in Creative Thinking

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kolam-by-kids

Last year during the Pongal celebrations the students talked about how much their families enjoyed drawing kolams on the threshold of their homes.

“When I get up in the morning I like to draw a kolam with my mother. I watch her draw and try to make my own kolam outside our gate,” a 2nd grader shared how she learned to draw the kolam designs.

kolam-by-kids

There are many traditional patterns readily available in kolam books or from watching the elders in the family draw them. We wanted to see if the students copied the designs or if they actually analyzed and created their own patterns.

kolam-by-kids

The discussion started with each kid identifying whether she or he liked to draw kolams and how they learned to make them. One of the interesting points that came up was that this was the time that ‘mothers and daughters’ spent together doing something creative. The young girls were excited to share about all that their mothers taught them. When one of the boys said he liked to draw kolam, some of his classmates giggled. A little girl immediately jumped to his defense saying, “My big brother likes to draw kolams too.”

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“What kind of kolams do you make with your mom?” I asked them. Most of the class answered that their mothers like to draw big pulli kolams (kolam with dots) while they made line kolams. We gave them paper and crayons so they could create their own designs.

kolam-by-kids

The most common kolams were floral designs which the kids seemed to draw freehand. After drawing the basic outline of a flower or the six sided star they added lines to create repetitive patterns. The other common feature they used were the three lines ending in swirls (known as the peacock’s comb).

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When asked to describe their kolams, one girl said, “Miss, I draw one petal and decide if the size and shape are right. After that, I repeat the same kind of petal to draw the flower. The petals have to be the same size and shape. Otherwise, the kolam will not look right. I complete the flower and decide how to fill it up—whether to use straight lines or curvy lines, thick lines or thin lines, dots or stars. If I draw one design in one petal, then I choose something different for the second petal. Then I repeat the first design in the third petal. So it is always alternating.”

kolam-by-kids

“Sometimes after I draw the flower, my mother gives me some color powder. I alternate the colors in the petals so that is also another way to make a new design. The best thing miss is that there are many ways to create new designs.”

You can see that a lot of thought has gone into the kolams. The little girl is right! You can copy a basic design and make it your own by the patterns you create within.

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