Rangoli–a British phenomenon

Ranbir Kaur, entered into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2003 for creating the biggest rangoli in the world
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Ranbir Kaur, entered into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2003 for creating the biggest rangoli in the world. Rangoli, an art form that originated from India has now become a British phenomenon. Midlands-based Rangoli artist Ranbir tells Anjana Parikh from Asian Lite about this magnificent art and how she’s been commissioned across the UK to create rangoli designs and share her expertise.

AL: Through rangoli, you’ve tried to raise the profile of arts and crafts of Asian women? Can you please throw light on this?

Ranbir: I believe the art of rangoli is more than just a traditional craft practice for a Diwali celebration per se, because it does have a greater significance in the realm of bringing Asian women to the forefront. Through working with Asian women who have been victims of abuse, to engaging Asian women in palliative care through rangoli workshops, I believe the art of rangoli serves to bring deprived ethnic minority women together to be part of a highly engaging and therapeutic practice. Contemporary rangoli is, of course, a popular form of Indian art today, but I think the way in which I have worked with this art form and promoted it across the Asian community, it has truly served a purpose – to empower Asian women both nationally and internationally.

AL: You worked on the largest rangoli for Birmingham Millennium celebration ‘Revolution’. How long did it take and who/ what inspired you to do it?

Ranbir: The ‘Revolution’ rangoli, which was created in the year 2,000, was the largest rangoli of its time. It took over two days to create; I was inspired by the light-designs reflected on the ceiling. You see, I never have a tendency to plan my designs prior to executing the work. I like to get a feel of the space I’m in, the aura, taking inspiration from various aspects to create something magnificent. The reflective lights on the ceilings were filled with spirals and swirls, and this whirlwind of designs inspired me to create the rangoli with a great depth of intricacy. It was my interpretation of the spinning swirls as a continuation of circles that helped me create this swirling-floor pattern. I was immensely proud of the finished work. It’s amazing where your imagination can take you.

AL: Can art bring cohesion of East-West cultures beyond the boundaries?

Ranbir: Absolutely. And it has done so for many years. An art form that originated from India has now become a British phenomenon, in which I have been commissioned across the UK to create rangoli designs and share my expertise in this country for over 20 years. I believe bringing forward this art form to the western community has helped bridge cultural gaps and sustain the belief that we are all one major community. Rangoli has played a pivotal role in educating cross cultural communities, and really helps individuals to gain an enriched perspective about different cultures and traditions. It’s important to disseminate knowledge and equally form cohesion between various ethnic groups. I have always maintained this belief.

AL: Can you tell us about the moment when you entered into the Guinness Book of World Record?

Ranbir: Post the 2000 Revolution Rangoli, the 2003 Guinness World Record Rangoli broke all boundaries and surpassed all original records. It’s one of my proudest achievements, and was by far one of the most exhilarating moments of my career. Based in Nottingham, I gathered together the local community to be part of this huge project. Many believed it would be impossible to achieve, but it was with my perseverance to keep at it for over 10 hours on the floor that this dream was eventually made possible. From using kilos of rice, hundreds of lemons and slicing hundreds of oranges, I entered the Guinness World Records with a rangoli measuring 163 square metres.

AL: How did you develop interest in rangoli?

Ranbir: I have always had an innate passion for the arts, a strong creative flair and desire for such cultural practices. I guess growing up in India played an important role in helping me build my Indian design skills, but I always thrived to share my work with the world, on a larger scale. Rangoli has been my favourite art practice amongst the many, and I do believe my enthusiasm and passion for this art form has led me to expand on it in it’s contemporary manifestation today. Art is not static and that is what I particularly enjoy about it. It’s about experimenting, exploring and understanding it, and Rangoli has enabled me to do this precisely. I’ve been able to grow with the art form since my childhood and I am still forever developing an interest in the art form with reference to where it’s going to go next. It really has so much potential and I’m excited to be so involved in it.

AL: Which are the props do you mostly use for your art work?

Ranbir: I like to think of myself as someone who is confident enough to explore with different props. After working in the arts sector and creating rangolis over the last 35 years, I’ve been confident enough to experiment with using different materials and props to create a range of diverse and bespoke rangolies. Traditionally, coloured rice and sawdust have been widely used. However, across the range of Rangolies I have created I have worked with props including polyester to create the first ever floating Rangolies, to pasta and other wholefoods for transient designs, and marbles, stones or Eco-friendly materials for permanent park designs.