TRADITIONS, TREASURES & TRINKETS

Rashantha Devanesan

Jewellery are family heirlooms passed down through generations. Through cultural motifs and symbolic values, these mediums of expression become of the wearer intrinsically and intimately. Rashantha Devanesan’s jewellery are applied works of art, as she crafts them laboriously. Rashantha’s understanding of culture and history, through erudite comprehension crafts these works that are profuse with the heritage of many communities. ‘Kadambari’ her collection of jewellery, embodies the nuances of each culture as it represents communities and Rashantha communes the depth of each heritage in an adornment. Kadambari was founded in 2009. She sources the raw materials for her pieces from North Africa to Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka, focusing on pieces that hold unique historical and cultural meaning in their respective communities. Her passion for history, creativity, and her dedication to philanthropy are the main drivers of Kadambari, of which she crafts each work individually. Rashantha gives the majority of her profits to charities she’s worked with for over a decade and together with Rithihi, Rashantha Devanesan imparts these intrinsic principles and cultural ideologies through her collections.

Sri Lankan-born Rashantha Devanesan holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Madras and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Sheffield, UK. Now residing in Singapore, she has been closely associated with education and the running of schools in Kerinci, sumatera Indonesia - as part of a Company education initiative by April - a large Pulp and Paper Multinational conglomerate in Indonesia, China and Europe. Since she founded Kadambari, Rashantha has designed and sold pieces all over the world, holding sales in London, Singapore and Sri Lanka regularly for the last decade. A hundred percent of profits from these sales goes toward Rashantha’s charity projects, which she has supported over the years, mostly focused on vulnerable communities in Morocco, India and Sri Lanka. As we converse with Rashantha, we explore the significance of her cultural pieces and their intricate designs, derivations and the ethical notions ‘Kadambari’ brings.

Q | What was the inspiration behind the making of the jewellery?

A | I am a History buff, I did my bachelor’s degree in history and also taught it at secondary school in Singapore. What inspires me to work with old ethnic jewellery are the stories behind each piece. Ethnic jewellery has significance beyond mere adornment. It reveals to us the story of lives in each of these different cultures, the people themselves, their fears, their hopes, their status in their communities - this is the true power of ethnic adornment and this is what has been my inspiration.

Q | You receive your pieces from Africa, India and Sri Lanka. How do you incorporate them into your designs?

A | The pieces I use in my jewellery, be it pendants, beads, accessories, all have historic significance. With old valuable elements, I try to keep to the original design of these jewels as much as possible, but I also give them a modern twist for a contemporary interpretation. I seldom plan a piece of jewellery. My table in my studio is a muddle of many different elements that I surround myself with, what I pick to work with and what I complete as a piece - whether it’s a necklace or a pair of earrings, is completely spontaneous.

Q | Can you talk about some of your designs that have particular heritage value?

A | I am very interested in North /African/ Moroccan and Tuareg jewellery purely because it is very different to South Asian jewellery and even Middle Eastern jewellery which were heavily influenced by jewellery from the Indian subcontinent that probably reached through ancient trade routes that North Africa seemed to have been bypassed. The jewellery of Kadambari are usually categorized by the regions from which the elements are sourced. I keep to the cultural and design ethos of the region and culture they come from, as much as possible. When I display a piece on my page, it is usually accompanied by a researched write up about the jewel, the region it comes from, the cultural significance of the pendant and some of the elements used in the piece.

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14th October, 2020 Applied Art

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