Works of Kāvi Kale were found primarily in temples of Goa and Coastal Karnataka. Scholars believe that Kāvi Kale originated and flourished in Goa around the 16th century. Once prolific in the coastal temples, particularly on the outer walls of the shrines, Kāvi Kale decorated house walls as well. Today works of Kāvi Kale are fast disappearing due to temple renovations and no preservation efforts. In few village temples the Kāvi Kale remain as fading fossils, or some of them replaced with chemical paintings.
Kāvi Kale are monochromatic works. The term kāvi is the local name for Indian Red. The ferrous content in the soil gives it its rich reddish brown colour. This art form thrived along the coastal belt for two main reasons – the availability of red soil (uramanju) in abundance, and due to the climatic conditions of the coastal belt. The traditional process of creating Kāvi Kale withstood the torrential rainfall sustaining minimal damage.
Kāvi Kale were created with locally available materials. White lime obtained by burning sea-shells and the sand from river-bed mixed with jaggery was allowed to ferment for two weeks. Then it was hand pounded to obtain a homogeneous mixture. This mixture which hardened when applied to the wall was allowed to dry. A butter smooth mixture of lime and uramanju was applied evenly on the same wall. An hour later kāvi pictures were etched on wet wall. After a day’s initial drying, water was sprayed on the works at an interval of four hours for a week’s time. After each spray they would be polished with smooth pebbles from river beds. These treatments prevented cracks and also ensured that the Kāvi Kale lasted as long as the building itself.
About the artist: Veena Srinivas has not only created works of Kāvi Kale but has studied in depth the processes of painting, the themes woven into it, the spaces in which they exist and their present situation. She has also conducted workshops to provide hands-on experience to young people and spread awareness about the art form.
Srinivas has taken up themes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other epics as subjects of her Kāvi Kale paintings. These paintings are meant not only for exhibitions but to kindle interest in the art form at national and international forums. She also attempts to bring the art form into the public eye through exhibitions and publications in addition to drawing the attention of government bodies for preservation, conservation and propagation of the art form.