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Singapore rangoli artist creates pieces with Spanish flowers, household items

SINGAPORE – Artist Vijaya Mohan’s mission is to promote rangoli, a 5,000-year-old Indian art, in all its different shapes and forms.

The local 64-year-old rangoli artist, who has just returned from a Flower Carpet Show in Barcelona, is preparing for another rangoli event: the Singa Rangoli exhibition at Tekka Place, which will run until Sept 30.

The Flower Carpet Show was held in the Spanish city on Aug 30 as part of a Spanish arts programme, for which she created a circular rangoli 4m in diameter and conducted workshops.

“When passers-by in Barcelona saw the reds and whites of our Singapore rangoli, or ‘flower carpet’ as they refer to it, they wanted to know how we came up with the design and what were the flowers used,” she says.

For the Barcelona display, she used mainly coloured chrysanthemum to withstand the hot Spanish summer, as well as locally grown blooms such as gerbera and carnations.

The organisers invited her to the show after seeing her work at the 2022 Brussels Flower Carpet Show, where she was part of a team of artists embellishing a flower carpet measuring about 5,500 sq m.

Since 1971, Brussels’ Grand-Place in Belgium has been the site of the Brussels Flower Carpet Show, a massive floral display crafted around the Belgian begonia, of which Belgium is the world’s largest producer.

The artist is excited about her latest exhibition at Tekka Place.

She has thought out of the box to create her take on rangoli, using household materials such as spoons, forks, toothpicks, bangles and small mirrors.

She will also be conducting community rangoli workshops with seniors to coincide with the exhibition.

Besides art, the exhibition will feature meet-and-greet sessions with the public on Sept 17 from 3 to 5pm.

Mohan says that the ancient art of rangoli takes on many forms and is popular in the West as the “flower carpet”.

In South India, rangoli is called kolam in Tamil Nadu and pookalam in Kerala.

Traditionally, rangoli uses coloured rice powders and organic, mainly edible materials to create auspicious designs just outside the main door of a house or apartment.

Geometric designs are used to ward off negative energies and attract good luck through the main door – the “mouth” – of the home.

Mohan, who is also an art therapist and educator of children with special needs, says that over the centuries, the coloured-rice designs inspired creations such as water rangoli, where flowers of different hues are placed in a deep dish filled with water to create a welcoming table or floor display.

She started learning the art form from her mother – an acclaimed rangoli artist in Trichy, Tamil Nadu – at the age of five.

She came to Singapore in 1992 and became a citizen in 2005. She is married to Mr N. Mohan, 74, who is a co-director of Singa Rangoli, an arts company owned by the couple since 2015.

They have a 41-year-old daughter, a 35-year-old son and two grandchildren who are learning how to make rangoli.

The artist – who holds the Guinness World Record for the largest rangoli, at 2,756 sq ft, in 2003 – has 48 records in various categories in the Singapore Book of Records, and has completed more than 20,000 rangoli globally.

She is teaming up with the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association for an upcoming Deepavali event where she will be creating a giant canvas mural rangoli which the public can help make.

She will also be teaching migrant workers and domestic helpers the finer points of her unique style of rangoli.

“For this year’s Deepavali celebrations, I will teach construction workers how to paint mud lamps called diyas, and to decorate the lamps with recycled CDs to give them a mirror-like finish,” she says.

“The domestic helpers will learn how to weave garlands and design greeting cards using flowers made from recycled water bottles.”

Art and creation come from the heart and mind, she says.

“By using available materials and recyclables, rangoli artists need not wait for the standard drawing or painting materials. They can simply adapt to create something beautiful.”

The Singa Rangoli exhibition is on till Sept 30 at Basement 1, Tekka Place. To register for sessions, WhatsApp or call Vijaya Mohan on 9459-5756 or Mr Mohan on 9105-2634.

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