‘Jewellery in Narratives’ by Divya N shines a light on ‘tholu bommalata’

Chennai designer Divya N’s ongoing virtual exhibition, Jewellery in Narratives, features wearable pieces and brings together folk art and epics.

“There is a potent connection between narratives and jewellery in India, where jewellery propels the story forward. For example, in Shakuntala, by Kalidasa, the signet ring plays a crucial role in the story, and in Silapathikaaram, by Ilango Adigal, an ankle bracelet is the most important metaphor,” says Divya N, Chennai-based founder of Sayuri, a brand of mixed media jewellery.

Her online exhibition, Jewellery in Narratives (@jewelleryinnarratives on Instagram), brings together folk art and epics.

The designer has created hand-painted jewellery, using the techniques of tholu bommalata, a form of shadow theatre from Nimmalakunta, Andhra Pradesh. “Revisiting familiar stories was fascinating and the experience provided me with a fresh perspective. I curated epics, temple histories and moral stories in which jewellery plays an important role, then showcased them on necklaces,” says Divya.

‘Derived from epics’

All the detailing represented in the collection was derived from the epics. “When I was painting Sita in ashokavana, I had to bring out her agony by using appropriate colour combinations.” The display has 15 designs derived from the Ramayana, Bhagavat Purana, Śhakuntala, Silapathikaaram, Ratnaavali, Temple Histories – Jataka tales and Hitopadesa.

The discussion for the project which began in April this year, was completed by the end of October. Divya designed the products in Chennai, while Sriramulu worked from Nimmalakunta. Dokra brass beads and patwa thread art components for jewellery were sourced from Chattisgarh. The final product was then shipped to Hyderabad to be photographed.

A unique aspect of this project is the concept of a “create with me” framework, where collaborators teach and learn skills from each other. “Normally designers create and artists follow the instructions. But in this project, I have broken that tradition. I learnt from artist Shinde Sriramulu. The artist also designed some pieces for the project,” says Divya.

She adds, “Roles are fluid, where the artist becomes the designer and the designer becomes the artist.”

Jewellery in Narratives is on view for a year at https://jewelryinnarratives.com/.

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