Kalamkari literally means the art of decoration with the help of a pen (Kalam). It is an exquisite ancient craft of painting and printing fabrics. Kalamkari has evolved over the last 3000 years in two villages namely Srikalahasti and Machilipatnam as two distinctive styles in Andhra Pradesh. "Machilipatnam Kalamkari" is visually identified by all over floral twine /Persian designs which are block printed and produced in traditional laborious methods using natural vegetable dyes. Machilipatnam is the nerve center of this art and continue to be beehive of Kalamkari activity using the colors made from vegetable dyes. The artisans of the traditional art have been long voicing for new sources and dyeing technologies as well as printing methodologies to enable them to diversify the business and reach the large Garment Industry.
Business Planning and Development Project at National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM), Hyderabad has taken an initiative in scouting suitable technologies to develop this skillful art. Modern phyto-based dyeing technologies generated from National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) – Value Chain in Natural Dyes (VCND) project at Department of Home Science, Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Hyderabad were identified for transfer to stakeholders. The project further facilitated the customization of these technologies to specific needs suiting to the local ecosystem of the traditional art.
Technology of five new colors, their extraction techniques and the entire methodology was enabled to five master art craftsmen in the Kalamkari group. The trained artisans along with the technology provider were part of an on-site training for 30 more workers. An end-to-end transfer of modern technologies was facilitated to solve a long felt gap by the artisans. Efforts for setting up a new unit with dyeing, printing and garment making units using this technology are also in progress. In the process, technology from a developer from the NARS could reach the targeted technology seeker like Vegetable Hand Block Kalamkari Printers Welfare Association (artisan’s association). Secretary of the Association Mr. Sajja Nageswara Rao said this technology transfer has enhanced the opportunities for better visibility of Kalamkari art with new dyeing and printing techniques. Skill Development Programme facilitated by NAARM gave a new approach to the process by adopting the new techniques that save time and money. I feel this makes a value addition to the product and enhanced marketability on par with present trendy designs while avoiding duplicates in the market.
It is expected that this linkage will go a long way for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship for this 15th century traditional art in rural Andhra Pradesh and lead them to business avenues like FAB India and National Textile Programme. Earlier, the association has also received its “Geographical Indication” grant from GI registry on July 24, 2013 during an awareness workshop conducted at NAARM.
(Source: NAARM, Hyderabad)