Our Stories

Every morning at sunrise during summer vacations, I watched as my grandmother drew a kolam outside her house in a small town in India. First, she drew dots that were evenly spaced (like a matrix), and then she weaved a line through those dots ensuring the line ends where it began while maintaining symmetry. I was intrigued not only by the beauty and harmony of the dots and lines, but also by its impermanence.

I began drawing small kolam designs around my grandmother’s kolams, trying to create my own patterns. There were days when she made very complicated kolams and I remember asking her, “How do you draw such complex kolams, especially without looking into a book?” To which, she responded, “Just feel the flow around the dots and your hand will move in the right direction.”

When I moved to the United States, I missed being surrounded by kolams. So I began to incorporate kolams in my artwork. My academic background in physics and psychology along with my curiosity to better understand the cosmos and our place in it led me to explore kolams. I became very fascinated by its geometry, philosophy and the life lessons inherent in the patterns and the process itself. There is so much to learn from kolams. The dots represent challenges or obstacles and the line weaving through the dots is like problem-solving your way through life. Even today, when I have a problem, kolams come to my rescue; I would simply spend time following the lines of a kolam and almost always, a solution emerges!

I am so grateful and honored 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.

- Shanthi Chandrasekar

Latha and her family designed their tiles together. They played Indian music and no one looked at any of their devices for a few hours! Great family event: Latha had no idea that they would be so into it.

The Parker twins are second graders at a DC Public School. Their school participated as a group for Inauguration Kolam 2021. Mr. Parker believes that designing the kolam tiles was an awesome art project for the family; three generations sat down at the dining table to include themes from school lessons in their tiles.

Gail participated in the Inauguration Kolam 2021 project with her wife, Sam. Sam is a science teacher at a local school who does origami; Gail enjoys working with fiber. Gail recently took a class called "Aqueous Collage" and incorporated both collages, and watercolors of the “ocean.”

Anchal named her group "Asha" after her mom. "Asha" means hope. The Asha yoga group submitted almost 50 tiles in the cup shape. Anchal says, "A lot of the children were super creative and used great color combinations." She added: "Grateful to have found Inauguration Kolam 2021. It was a wonderful holiday activity for families."

Stephanie's granddaughter Emerson - who's familiar with 2020 elections - was super happy to be a part of the project. Emerson loves Kamala for "girl power". Stephanie and her granddaughters watched a video on how to make a kolam tile. Stephanie emphasized use of bright bold colors and put out markers, paints, and crayons. The girls mostly painted, and their personalities really came through in their kolam designs - "Aela loves abstract and Emerson is more literal."

Journal Entry from Suneeta: “Today I’m thinking about two amazing Kamalas. One from Oakland and one from Andhra. My grandmother’s (Ammamma) name is Kamala. She passed away in Nov 2017 and was a pillar of strength who lived through the depression, wars, independence, and raised four beautiful daughters. When my daughter was born Kamala was on our list of names but based on my own experience I worried that the name would be a struggle.

Today, I can't believe someone named Kamala is the VPOTUS. Ammamma would have been so happy to see this. I'm so proud, excited and hopeful for our country and all the little girls who see themselves, their mamas and grandmas in her."

Lakshmi shared a throwback kolam photo. "This is me, my mom, my sister and my brother in 1990 in front of our house in Vellore, Tamilnadu. Growing up kolam was a huge part of every day life and even more special on special holidays! It brings back such warm memories!!"

Krishna Arvind did tiles with his mother and then wrote an article about it for a newspaper. Shout out to all the budding reporters in the house!

This kambi kolam stained glass piece was created by Debora Coombs at William's College, Massachusetts with a group of 10 students from varied places including Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, California, and Mexico.

Coombs focuses on geometry and the mathematical projection of light as a way to understand shifts between dimensions of space.

Suba was an enthusiastic participant! She made six tiles of her own and then volunteered to collect and sort tiles.

"It was exciting and fun to participate.. and to help local coordinators by picking up tiles from multiple groups (grouping them by shapes, checking quality, punching holes for assembly etc. I sat down last minute and fixed existing tiles at one of the pickup locations and created more new tiles in under 15 minutes with a race against time to to get it into the dry run/photo-video shoot... amid a lot of fun and laughter!"

Tracy from Madison, Wisconsin made a kolam made with bread crumbs and bird seed on frozen lake in front of the WI Capitol building. This beautifully captures the spirit of the kolam's "All are Welcome" message!

5 year old Savitha printed out kolams for all of her dolls. She said "First I asked my Amma to print it and then I cut it out and we took a photo. I know my baby is a pretend baby but it is nice that she can also do this with real people. Kolams are cool."

We received this email from P.Hariharan: "Greetings from India. This is a submission on behalf of my wonderful wife Vedambal for the Inauguration Kolam 2021. She is passionate about the different types of Kolams. She has a good collection of different kolams made into a book."

Saanvi is a 6th grade student from Virginia and this is one of the tiles she made.

"My mom and I had a lot of fun doing this kolam activity, it was really cool to cut out the different templates and see the spindle shape come together! I am very excited to see it being displayed at the Capitol! I am thankful and lucky that we got to be part in this project! "