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South Asian Artists' Designs Welcome New Administration To White House

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are about to receive an Indian-style welcome to their new jobs. A group of volunteers put together a kolam in Washington, D.C. That is a traditional South Indian art form that's used as a sign of welcome. Shanthi Chandrasekar is the artist behind this project.

SHANTHI CHANDRASEKAR: So there's a grid of dots that is drawn using powdered rice or rock powder in front of houses on the floor and a line that goes around these dots, all done freehand.

NOEL KING, HOST:

The kolam team asked people to submit a single dot design on a 12-by-12-inch paper tile. They got over 1,800 submissions.

SOWMYA SOMNATH: From stickers to favorite cartoon characters to...

ROOPAL SHAH: Traditional Indian Madhubani painting and peacock designs.

KING: Sowmya Somnath and Roopal Shah are volunteer organizers, and they say the variety of images show how diverse the participants are.

SHAH: So there's this really beautiful kind of combination of tiles with peoples' spirit connecting in a way that creates this mosaic ground cover.

SOMNATH: It's not just a welcoming of a new administration; it's this idea that so many people came together with all of their stories, and it's those stories now that are more and more a part of the American fabric and more and more welcome.

INSKEEP: And while the kolam does connect with Harris' Tamil heritage, it also symbolizes a way forward out of a tough moment for the country.

CHANDRASEKAR: The dots represent problems in life, and if one can weave around these dots and also maintain a symmetry while going around, it sort of brings out solutions as you work on them because it's very meditative.

INSKEEP: The 2021 inauguration kolam is set to reveal its positive energy digitally over Zoom today.

KING: And eventually, the tiles will be assembled into a kolam of more than 2,500 square feet once security around the capital eases up.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMA LAD'S "KOLAM THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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