A sweet ‘Sangam’ of poems and paints

The body of literature from the Sangam period is not just about love and war. It isn’t mere bardic flattery or religious mythology.

Published: 29th September 2021 06:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th September 2021 06:52 AM   |  A+A-

The Instagram venture was started last month

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The body of literature from the Sangam period is not just about love and war. It isn’t mere bardic flattery or religious mythology. What I was able to experience in Sangam was stoicism, cosmopolitanism, meritocracy, demerits of meritocracy, game theory, materialism, minimalism, political theory, neurolinguistics, the evolution of human thought and more,” says Deepak Bhushanam of Sangam Poems, a month-old Instagrambased creative venture. The 30-year-old along with a team of artists has been reimagining the words and verses of classic Tamizh poems through spectacular artworks.

“As a third-generation Tamizh growing up in Mumbai, I was attracted to Tamizh, its history, heritage, culture, arts and everything affiliated to it. I had a deep desire to explore my roots,” he recalls. Thanks to his tenure at Freshworks as the South Asia head, Deepak’s hunger only grew as he lived and worked with the global Tamizh diaspora. “I undertook several courses and embarked on journeys across the state to understand the myriad layers that added value to Sangam literature,” he says.

Civilisation connect
It is this admiration that inspired Sangam Poem’s first artwork, which was a take on the emotion of romantic love. “I wanted our first art to be an invocation. Hence, Yaayum Gnyaayum felt like a nice choice. The poem’s genre is Kurinji, which is also a flower that the thalaivi or heroine wears (in the poem). I wanted to show the creative continuum existing between the Indus valley civilization (IVC) and south Indian civilisations. This is portrayed through the thalaivi’s jewels, which was inspired from the popular Keezhadi gold pendant, etched carnelian and glass beads,” he informs.

The thalaivan (hero) too wears an armlet inspired by an IVC ornament. “If looked comparatively, one can see that the armlet design will look improvised with lesser intricacy than the original. This was purposely done to show how people modified or changed art forms during the later phase of IVC into the Indian Megalithic Iron Age. I feel that the emotion of Sempula Peyaneer (Red Earth and Rain Water) is something different than the image of Yin Yang across cultures — the former has united, the latter is sadly always shown separated. This, I have expressed through the narrative that accompanies the artwork,” he details.

Poetry on canvas
The vision of Sangam Poems is multifold. To dissolve the negativity around arts, literature, history, heritage and culture, through creativity; to help a wider audience experience the creative sweetness of Sangam literature, highlight human behaviours or practices that continue from Sangam into the 21st century, exploring solutions to modern problems using ideas from the literature and giving people ways to thrive, celebrate and own a piece of 3,400 years old heritage, are some, says Deepak. From depicting the traditional sea-friendly coir nets, which are still in use in parts of south India, how the omen of ‘crow cawing’ indicated arrival of guests in the Sangam Age — a belief that continues even today; an artwork, which is an ode to the poet who captured the complex emotions of family ties and frictions, the complex cross-functional literacy that existed in those days, Sangam Poems captures the essence of classic poems, through detailed illustrations.

Every art has four layers that people can explore. Art has a central emotion or topic. Then, the creatives reflect on the overall scene of the art with the characters and settings. “We try to keep it authentic. The third layer is the detailing. Here, we bring in objects from excavations related to the Sangam age…flora, fauna from a poem and use them creatively. Finally, I take liberty through storytelling to weave all the three and add details that cannot fit into the above. For these stories which find a place in the Instagram descriptions, I usually take inspiration from the commentators of Sangam literature. If they did not add their creative inputs, then we would have lost many colours or may have found it very difficult to enjoy poems from classical Tamizh,” he shares.

Currently, the venture has tapped on Instagram to showcase its artworks. The works are available in the form of framed canvases, stretched cardboards, rolled canvases, notebooks, diaries, mugs, stickers and fridge magnets. Sangam- inspired garments and fashion accessories are in the pipeline. “We are also working on illustrations for publishers and NGOs. We’ ll be launching stickers, car accessories, fridge magnets and a 2022 calendar,” he says. The products are priced from `250 onwards. For details, visit Instagram @sangampoems or call: 8850905622


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