Auspicious Kolam drawings mark kickoff of Biden-Harris inauguration ceremony

Lalit K Jha
·3-min read

Washington, Jan 17 (PTI) Kolam, a traditional Indian art form of drawing geometric patterns on the floors as a sign of welcome, was part of the virtual kick-off ceremony of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris, who traces her origin to Tamil Nadu where these auspicious designs adore almost every household.

More than 1,800 individuals from across the US and many from India participated in the online initiative to create thousands of kolam designs to celebrate the historic event.

“Many believe kolams symbolize positive energy and new beginnings. People of all ages from various communities collaborated from their homes to create tiles with eco-friendly materials. What started out as a local project spread way beyond our expectations,” said Shanthi Chandrasekar, an award-winning multimedia and multidisciplinary artist from Maryland who took the initiative along with several others.

The initial idea was to have these kolam patterns from across the country in front of the White House as a symbol of good beginning to the new administration. The Washington DC police later gave the organizers permission to have it near the Capitol Hill, around the inauguration venue.

However, due to the unprecedented security measures that have been enforced in Washington DC, the permission was cancelled.

As a result, pictures of thousands of kolam tiles on Saturday were woven into a video to welcome Biden and Harris in the spirit of ‘Presidency for All’ and to showcase the multi-cultural heritage of America.

A date for the installation after the inauguration will be set after a go-ahead from the local security, said Sowmya Somnath who is part of the Inauguration Kolam 2021 organizing team in her volunteer capacity.

Washington DC Public Schools arts director Mary Lambert and visual arts manager Lindsey Vance joined Chandrasekar to combine thousands of kolam drawings made by people from many different backgrounds to welcome President-elect Joe Biden when he takes office in a few days.

Hundreds of artists, citizens and students from across the country collaborated online to combine thousands of local pieces.

In Tamil Nadu, where Harris has roots, women draw kolams on the ground to invite health and prosperity into houses where they are displayed.

“This is what we wanted when we planned to have thousands of kolam tiles in front of the White House,” said Somnath.

Students from ten public schools in Washington DC participated in making the kolam art. Lambert said the District of Columbia Public School arts curriculum focuses on equity and believes cultural representation is an important part of that effort.

“This project provided an opportunity for our students to learn about another culture and the math skills needed for creation in the arts,” said Lambert. “As well, an opportunity to express their identity through visual arts and to see that united with others from around the country.” Major Democratic fund raiser Shekar Narasimhan, whose niece and grandniece joined many others to make tiles for the Inauguration Kolam, supported the project. Narasimhan said the project reflects and honours the history of America. “With the rise of diverse America, the energy behind this artwork is a reminder of what binds us together as Americans,” he said.

“I am so grateful and honoured to be able to share my love for kolams through the #2021kolam community project. The real celebrities are the children who have invested so much of themselves into beautifying the dots and the shapes around them that will come together for our collaborative welcome offering for Inauguration Kolam #2021,” Chandrasekar said.

The response has been “way beyond our expectations,” she said. “We have people send in their tiles from all the way from California, Boston, New Jersey and many places. From day cares to people in their 90s have participated in this. The response has been amazing,” she said. PTI LKJ RDM RDM