Why do different cultures in South Asia decorate their floors, walls and ceilings in different ways?

Curiously it appears very little is known about folk and tribal floor and wall painting practices in South Asia, as greater critical scrutiny has been applied by scholars to classical Indian miniature painting and contemporary art and architecture.

Why is that so? Is it the ephemeral varied nature of these ritual practices, classified in different regions in different ways? Travel to South India and you encounter the wonderful Kolam floor paintings in Tamil Nadu, or Santal architectural wall paintings in West Bengal, and Muggu floor designs in Andra Pradesh. Is it the Srilankan and Bhutan shrines that has made it difficult to document?

                                                 Yasmin Hales: Pondicherry, South India. 

Or is it because the artistic skill of this decorative embellishment is simply regarded as the practice of everyday life? Wall and floor decorations are produced by women and men on private domestic doorways, thresholds, vernacular walls, streets and public spaces in rural Indian villages and urban towns. The materials range from chalk to crushed white rice, coloured paints, stencils and more recently plastic stickers. Maybe that has contributed towards the neglect of this research? And finally, in what way are these South Asian ritual practices being conserved and how are they changing due to rapid urbanisation and the influence of modernity?

These were some of the central questions that were enthusiastically debated and discussed  by international scholars from Art History, Anthropology, Architecture, Visual Arts and Conservation during an inspiring and insightful day and a half symposium on South Asian floor-drawings and murals. The conference was organised by Dr. Aurogeeta Das from the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) Westminster University, in collaboration with the South Asian Arts Group (SARG) and SALF13 on 25-26th October 2013.

For further details please visit the South Asian Literature Festival SALF 13 website and a curatorial review by Dr Malini Roy in the department of Asian studies at the British Library, London.