Explorations with Kolam
When I'd stay my grandmother in India, I would wake up before dawn breaks to wash the concrete entrance with pails of water. She would come with two boxes of rice flour. We would crunch up our skirts and tuck them into our waistbands, bend over with our legs apart in a squat, pinch the rice flour with our thumbs and the sides of our index fingers and start drawing with the flour to create our kolam for the day.
Kolams are geometric line patterns drawn on the floor with rice flour every morning by women in South India and the diasporic regions. These intricate kolams intuitively drawn by these women have been studied by mathematicians who have noted the fractal formulas behind these line patterns. Many kolams are recursive, consisting of small patterns repeated many times (see image below).
Kolam is a ritualistic art form - it is created every day on the same canvas, usually a dark floor, and the art lives only for a day. The cycle of a kolam starts with the rice flour tightly packed to create a design, and as time goes by, the flour slowly spreads, and what is remaining of the kolam design is washed off in the morning to start this process again. In this piece, I explore this lifecycle by creating recursively-generated kolam patterns on Processing.js using fractals (binary tree). I illustrate rice grains coming together into a tightly packed pattern that eventually spreads and fades before coming together again.