A life journey in South India

A graduate of Sorbonne University, Chantal Jumel is a freelance researcher, traveller and writer, specialised in Indian visual and performing art (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, and Rajasthan). Author of two books « Voyage dans l’imaginaire Indien, Kolam, dessins éphémères des femmes tamoules » (A journey through graphical India, Kolam, ephemeral drawings by Tamil women) and « Kolam et Kalam, peintures rituelles éphémères de l’Inde du Sud » ( Kolam and kalam, South Indian ephemeral and ritual paintings), Geuthner, Paris, 2013-2010. I give lecture demonstrations, organize workshops in various structures forms and create ephemeral paintings and murals within the framework of exhibitions and festivals or on a purely individual basis.

As a life traveler I landed in South India many years back. Dance and traditional floor paintings have been part of my journey. I cherish the vibrant lesser known arts that unfold in the domestic context such as ephemeral diagrams drawn on thresholds with rice powder. A teaching and a research made possible by scholarships through the Indo-French Cultural Exchange Program and an allowance of the “Centre National du Livre (Paris).

I owe the gift of kolam to the many women I met during my stays in South India. While some have become friends and most remain strangers, all of them have enriched my artistic and personal quest. Over the years there have been informal interviews, invitations to share a meal, cups of South Indian filter coffee sipped at dawn in front of a fire, kolam designs sketched on scraps of paper, meetings of enthusiasts, temple visits, lively and inspiring contests, gifts in the form of books or school notebooks filled with kolam and private lessons. Like many benevolent Lakshmi, they taught me the subtleties of this art, and with each line traced with rice flour, passed on this unique tradition while instilling me with the spirit of India.

Class with Malathi S.

At the same time, I discovered Kerala’s ephemeral painting tradition through my master Mr Parameswara Kurup who embodies fulfilment through art. His generosity, his steadfastness and his humility remain to this day a great source of inspiration. It is to him, that I dedicated the film “Kalam eluttu pattu“To paint and sing the kalam” produced with the support of the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research).