Artist Rima Kallingal pays tribute to the dying art of handloom through a heart-warming dance staged in Kochi
The process of making textiles on a handloom is laborious and repetitious, almost like an antidote to the fast-paced, chaotic, and unrelatable nature of fashion. However, concealed beneath that deliberate choreography is an inadvertent synchronization that creates its own rhythm. This brand-new project, led by dancer and choreographer Rima Kallingal, creates a choreographed dance that simulates the process by drawing inspiration from the rhythmic motions of weaving looms. The loom glides smoothly from one phase to the next, from water for soaking to air for drying, with its own ebb and flow. It’s a visual poem created with motions infused with inherited abilities that transform yarn into a cloth.
Even though handweaving was the nation’s founding practice and philosophy, it is currently considered one of India’s disappearing arts due to the powerloom’s danger to supplant these labor-intensive, dependable, slow looms that have employed generations of weavers. The Kerala weavers and their craft were in danger of going extinct in 2018 due to a disastrous flood that was dubbed the “flood of the century” that struck the state due to abnormally high rainfall. The weavers were already dealing with problems including inconsistent demand and orders, low earnings, and other difficulties. Nearly 300 weaving units were harmed by the Periyar River’s overflowing floods, which also destroyed all of the equipment and stock.
Ramesh Menon, a former consultant to the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), launched a fundraiser with the goal of restoring the affected looms. This led to the creation of Save The Loom, a non-profit organization that not only restores the looms but also revitalizes the working conditions and wages of the weavers.
Actor, choreographer, dancer, and Mamangam Dance Studio founder Rima Kallingal was one among the numerous people who supported Save The Loom’s campaign in 2018. Later, the artist went to one of the weaving facilities in Chendamangalam, also known as the Keralan weaving village. There, she saw “rhythm, beat, and choreography” in the eight-step, roughly one-month-long process of turning yarn into textile, which requires the expertise of over fifteen weavers and artisans.
Kallingal’s Mamangam dance school in Kochi and Save The Loom worked together to create a choreography that mimics, reflects, and emphasizes the regular choreography of the weavers in the Chendamangalam handloom. This choreography is an extension of Save The Loom’s initiative to raise awareness about the importance of handloom and the preservation of this art form. Both movement and music were present. The choreography was predetermined. However, it’s simply another day in their routine for them. In order to begin, we traced the taal of each of the eight phases,” says Kallingal. She goes on to detail each step of the procedure, including soaking the yarn, stamping out the glue, dying, washing, and drying it, weaving the warp and weft, and loading the yarn onto the loom.
Each of these procedures followed a certain rhythm. Water was used continuously for the washing and dying processes, and air was used for the drying process, the speaker claims. Before dissecting these movements, Kallingal attempted to imitate their extremely basic shape. Every one of the eight dancers I assigned to each stage of the weaving process created a modern take on the weavers’ fundamental moves. Less “abhinaya” is used; instead, more mimicry of the weavers’ natural habitat is used. The melody originates from the inadvertent, natural song that was pre-existing within the handloom.
Initially, the choreography was captured in 15-second video clips that were captured within the handloom. The dancers are now executing the choreography live as part of a multimedia production called “Neythe,” which translates to “weaving” in Malayalam. Videos that were captured at the Chendamangalam handloom serve as the background for the performance. “An onstage display of the craft form and its several invisible procedures that make handwoven distinctive is an appropriate tribute to the art of weaving, as the craft is declining due to lack of sponsorship and numerous other causes. “Neythe” seeks to draw attention to these dexterous procedures and the accuracy of the hands that create exquisite fabrics.
Kallingal revealed that this project had great personal significance for her. The existence of this weaving village close to my home embarrassed me as an artist, and it took a flood for me to realize that this disappearing craft existed. I believe that as a contemporary dancer, this style has greatly inspired me to look around me and see beauty in even the tiniest details of daily life and movement. “Neythe” is supposed to let people “understand that so many people are involved in creating that one piece of fabric,” according to Kallingal. Moreover, I hope that at its conclusion,After seeing this, people will recognize the worth of a handloom product and will no longer wonder why handloom cloth costs so much.