Healing Beauty

Published on 26 December 2017

Photo: Melanie Lee

Artist/art therapist Vijaya Mohan uses the traditional Indian art form of rangoli to reach out to different communities in Singapore.

By Melanie Lee

Fifty-eight-year-old Vijaya Mohan has been learning rangoli (Indian courtyard painting, also known as kolam) since she was five in her hometown of Trichy in Tamil Nadu, India. These colourful rangoli designs are traditionally drawn every day outside houses in southern India. They are created to welcome health and prosperity in the homes. And every day, they are swept away for a new one to be created the following day.

“Rangoli is a form of thanksgiving to God. It’s temporary so you can’t take it back. It drives home the message that beauty is not permanent,” Mohan explains.

When she moved to Singapore in 1993, Mohan felt it was important to share rangoli with people from other cultures. Besides rangoli demonstrations, she also conducted workshops where participants could create a huge rangoli, communal style. In 2003, she even won a Guinness World Record by creating the world’s largest rangoli pattern of 256 square meters at Whampoa Community Centre.

In the past two decades in Singapore, Mohan has introduced rangoli not just to community centres, but also to schools, hospitals, old-age homes, children’s homes, juvenile homes, dementia patients and special needs communities. In 2007, she decided to gain an art-therapist qualification because she saw that rangoli had the potential to help people.

“We use a lot of colours in rangoli and colours give off a lot of energy. Many people feel happy after doing rangoli art. A lot of rangoli designs are also based on nature: flowers, leaves, peacocks, swans, parrots, mangoes…. Such visuals have a further calming effect,” says Mohan. For her community workshops, she has also adapted rangoli for beginners and terms this contemporary approach “SingaRangoli”. For example, she recently used acrylic sheets, paint markers and gemstones to create rangoli art with a group of senior citizens.

Mohan hopes to see more rangoli artists who, like her, can draw patterns the traditional way — with coloured powder. According to her, the few rangoli artists here are still drawing with chalk before filling up the shapes with rice and powder.

“I really hope more people will learn how to draw rangoli using powder. I try to hold classes but no one seems willing to do more than one or two sessions. I would love to offer my help, but no one seems to have the courage to commit to this,” she says.

For more on Vijaya Mohan’s work, visit singarangoli.com.

The Art of Rangoli by Vijaya Mohan

✨ “Rangoli is a form of thanksgiving to God. It’s temporary so you can’t take it back. It drives home the message that beauty is not permanent.” Traditionally drawn every day outside houses in southern India, these colourful #rangoli designs are created to welcome health and prosperity in the homes and swept away for a new one to be created the following day.

Watch as artist #VijayaMohan shows us how she practises this beautiful traditional Indian art form, also known as #kolam. 😻

#SgArts #IndianCulture SingaRangoli

Posted by AList SG on Wednesday, January 3, 2018

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