Art Break Day 2017: Collaborative Kolam Mural

Our 5th year of a global art revolution in Auroville was shared simultaneously by 47 other sites around the world on September 1st, 2017! The generous funding from the US-based Art is Moving was no longer available this year, so simplifying this community ritual of art-making allowed us to focus on one large art piece together. Since shifting to India from the US eight years ago, I often reflect on the ability to be resourceful and imaginative in the face of difficulties. It is a major part of everyday life here to adapt and persevere, and this year included several creative responses to challenges.


Behind the Visitor's Center Cafeteria in Auroville, there is a 20-foot green shipping container used for storage of grains and goods for cooking meals for our community. We gathered about 75 people including youth and all ages, from all backgrounds to create a community art mural on this container for Art Break Day. The design of this mural is based on a simple kolam pattern (traditional ground drawings done by local women each morning), layered with colors and patterns which allowed original self-expression.

As the local workers are the ones who see and use this container everyday, it was a gesture of gratitude to honor and celebrate their culture in this piece. As rains poured down on us in the morning, the staff smiled as we repeated meters of kolam and chalk lines to lead visitors to the mural hidden in the back of the campus. Many watched us with curiosity and during the afternoon tea break, we managed to gradually encourage many of the shy ammas (women) to join us one by one, until there was a cacophony of laughter and play while they each made smaller kolam designs and images within the larger mural. This was a powerful moment of social justice and true human unity through art, where an equalizing space of creativity was engaged by all.

Auroville is an international experiment in human unity, and most will admit that this vision works better on some days than others. By choosing to do only one piece, this mural became an investigation in how we find ways to work together without hierarchy. With seven years of niche experience in bridging gaps through art in Auroville, I found that providing a structure allowed each individual to find their place and make their mark. Humility, equality, cooperation, communication, coordination, dedication and patience are some of the values which came alive during our journey together. As always, the process was more important than the product, though the vibrant result is worth a visit in person!


Thank you to volunteers Karunya, Andrej, Ilango, Mathilde, Marie-Claire, Mousumi and to Vinay for photos; to Nicole for offering this public space for artmaking; to Lauren & Lisa of Art is Moving for initiating this movement; and to each artist who courageously participated, especially the hardworking team at Visitors Center in Auroville.

With love, light and color,
Krupa for Sankalpa (subunit of Thamarai)
See the full photo album and listen to the Auroville Radio interview, and more on Art Break Day and how to join anywhere in the world!