The Kolam Competition

I would like to share with you what I experienced last Sunday. In the village of Periyamudaliarchavadi, the organization EcoPro that I have been volunteering with made a clean-up together with the locals, removing all the garbage accumulated on every spot that people considered enough out of sight to dump heaps of waste on. After the clean-up, all the women were invited to participate in a Kolam Competition. Kolams are the beautiful artworks that women usually paint outside their houses to welcome guests and keep away evil spirits. This time the kolams were created to keep away the litter.


When I came to Periyamudaliarchavadi, the competition had already taken place, and a jury had decided the lucky winners (two – one from each of the two distinctive areas in the village). I came at nightfall to a clean open space in the heart of the village (that I assumed was before heavily littered). On the wall of a house, my friends in EcoPro had set up a projector screening the images of the beautiful kolams. I saw more and more women coming. And their husbands. And of course a number of playful children, curious about what was going to happen, who I was, and if that little digital camera I was carrying around could maybe – just maybe – be used to take a picture of them…


When everybody had gathered around, EcoPro took the opportunity to thank everybody for cleaning up the village, and to talk about the importance of not just dumping garbage and burning it on an open fire, but instead collecting it and recycling it. Then followed a nice ceremony of announcing the winning kolams and giving prices to the women. Even though I don’t speak a word of Tamil, it was clear to me that this was a well appreciated event – because I could see all the smiles on the women’s faces and recognize the attentiveness with which they listened to the presentation.


I had an inspiring experience. For me this showed a good example of how one can launch a development project and engage the local community to participate and enjoy it. Now I hold my fingers crossed for a cleaner, more beautiful Periyamudaliarchavadi.


//Åsa Ljusenius


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