Humble Kolhapuris take giant strides

Humble Kolhapuris take giant strides

Tall and terrific. Installation artist and interior/lifestyle designer Kanika Bawa’s towering installations are a virtual visual banquet — the large Kolhapuri chappals and the vibrant, colossal Kathakali Chair netting in eyeballs galore. Rightfully so, as she clinches space for both her artworks in the Limca Book of Records 2017 on the Make in India platform.

“I have made approximately 20 art installations so far,” says Kanika, basking in the global applause her recent installations are fetching. In the wake of the recent takeover of the Indian footwear market by Choo and Louboutin, she props up the rapidly depleting Kolhapuri-chappal industry on domestic turf through her 2 dramatic installations of the humble footwear: of 8 feet 6 inch and 10 feet 6 inch. “It’s a small effort to connect with our roots. The Kolhapuri is such a simplistic slipper, but so good for health. It cools the feet, reduces body heat, and eases back pain,” she says.

The Kolhapuri enjoys a rich past, with the warrior-king Shivaji Maharaj having fought battles in this tenuous footwear; trekking tricky terrain as well. The vinchu tree seeds encased between the 2 layers of the sole provide acupressure, and also make a peculiar sound to repel the animals in the forest.

What was the biggest challenge while making the installations? “The Kolhapuri design is like an exploration in the mundane chappal, with some emotion. It was difficult to make because the buffalo leather had to be stitched, not nailed, and it also had to withstand the heat,” confesses Kanika.

Each installation took 30 days to create. “The quintessential Indian footwear got lost somewhere in today’s digital world. I have presented this very contrast in the installation, with a view to revive our craft. This oldest handmade slipper is so unique yet so simple in form. My aim is to bring it to the limelight, and to make it a showstopper, like how the world knows khadi. I have transformed it into a piece of art with funky prints on leather, eye-popping colours and classy styling.”

The world’s largest Kolhapuris and the world’s tallest Kathakali Chair found space for display in South Mumbai recently.

The eye-catching Kathakali Chair, standing at a height of 10 feet 6 inch, is a stellar rendition with bright hues that personify the dance-drama.

“Kathakali is a reflection of vibrant India. It includes exquisite designs on costumes, bold colours, elaborate makeup, headgear and jewellery. This installation is a tribute the dance-drama that is almost forgotten,” says Kanika. “Of course, the most challenging project in my art installations, so far, has been creating Sandy (The Man Mermaid) and the Flying Man, as I used a steel mesh and LED lights to illuminate the installations.”

There has been a decided shift in the perception of the audience as well. “As an installation usually allows the viewer to enter and move around the configured space, and/or interact with some of its elements, it offers the viewer a different experience as compared to a traditional painting or a sculpture that is seen from a single reference point,” she says. From a redundant display to a medium of exploration of ideas, installation art has also come a long way.

Her pick of the fabulous 3 installations across the world? “Cloud by Brown and Wayne (Canada); Infinity Mirrored Room by Yaoji Kusama (New York), and In Orbit by Tomas Saraceno (Dusseldorf).”

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