Kalamkari and Chintz

A post-colonial reassessment of entangled textile histories


  • Pallavi Chamarty University of the Arts London


Chintz, Kalamkari, Craft, Artisan, Colonialism, Decolonisation


Traditionally researched craft and textile histories have often been criticised for being uncritical. Research in the field of Indian crafts has been preoccupied with object-led studies of craft techniques. The popular imagination buys into the mythologies depicted and the ‘discourse of patronage, kings, empresses, saints and a “golden” age of craft work’. This paper reassesses a similarly uncritical history of the South Indian textile craft Kalamkari by foregrounding the artisan’s perspective in this craft’s narrative. Keystone texts on Kalamkari and chintz are read critically, using a postcolonial lens to reject the academic tradition of normalising colonial encroachments on traditional knowledge and underrepresenting the artisan’s capacity for artistry and creativity. While artisans have been denied learning resources and systemically excluded from all forms of discursive place-making in cultural studies, such as in literature, galleries, museums and academia, findings from this critical reading are integrated with interview responses from contemporary Kalamkari artisans. This enables the exploration of their material and cultural mediations and attitudes towards community, labour, creativity and ownership. By studying the impact of coloniality on Indian craft and attempting to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of Kalamkari, this paper hopes to encourage more craft narratives that are critical of craft’s place as a communal, creative practice and industry within today’s global capitalist fashion system.

Kalamkari hanging in the didactic Hindu idiom, c. late-19th to early-20th century.




How to Cite

Chamarty, P. (2024). Kalamkari and Chintz: A post-colonial reassessment of entangled textile histories. DISCERN: International Journal of Design for Social Change, Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 5(1), 40–53. Retrieved from https://www.designforsocialchange.org/journal/index.php/DISCERN-J/article/view/144