Kondapalli toys 2.0

A design intervention has led to new Kondapalli toys, from quirky trucks to auto rickshaws

Published - April 20, 2017 05:25 pm IST

Aravind Jashua with some of the new Kondapalli toys

Aravind Jashua with some of the new Kondapalli toys

For long, artisans from Kondapalli have revelled in making toys that draw from Dasavatharam and other myths or depict rural lifestyles through images of people and cattle. But, like any other craft, the Kondapalli toys have also gone through a slump with fewer takers for their time-tested traditional toys. This is the age of the pampered consumer who can shop for quirky handicrafts from all over the country.

Sensing the need to take a fresh look at Kondapalli toys, the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Government of Andhra Pradesh, mooted a design intervention programme. Hyderabad-based fashion designer Aravind Jashua, known for his staunch support to khadi, stepped in when he learnt of the move.

Jashua worked with 30 artisans, 20 women and 10 men, for over two months and is excited to reveal some of the newer designs that have been made possible.

Kondapalli toys of trucks, auto rickshaws, colourful Gangireddu and skilfully painted utility wooden boxes are all part of the revamp. “Punjab and Rajasthan are known for their vibrant art on trucks. In some parts of Andhra Pradesh, we do find art on trucks though they may not be as colourful as those in Punjab,” says Aravind. The designer was also reminded of art on auto rickshaws that he saw in Hyderabad’s Old City in 1998–2000. “In Moghulpura, an artist called Habib used to paint on auto rickshaws and was known for his individualistic designs,” he points out.

The inspirations

More ideas stemmed from his observations at a design meet in New Delhi. Much later, when he saw women artisans in Kondapalli painting wooden boxes, he was reminded of Jamini Roy’s paintings. “All these inspirations worked at a subconscious level when we were thinking of creating something new,” says Jashua.

The designer’s initiation towards native crafts happened during his student days at National Institute of Fashion Technology. “As part of the curriculum, we were sent to craft centres all over India to learn about various crafts and document them. Over the years, I’ve had an interest in crafts,” he says.

So when he became a part of the Kondapalli design intervention programme, he wanted to come up with designs that would keep the authenticity of the toys intact. The change wasn’t a simple process. It required a little goading on his part to get artisans on board. “Artisans are accustomed to working in a certain method and produce toys of certain designs and colour schemes. They cite constraints and resist change, but it’s up to us to help them understand that a change in design to suit market requirements will be beneficial to them and the craft,” says Jashua and adds, “Artisans mostly think of the craft while a designer also factors in market needs from a sales point of view.”

In the larger scheme of things, Jashua feels there is a need for handloom and craft sectors to think of means to make their products viable, keeping with market changes, without relying solely on government sops.

The new Kondapalli toys will soon be sold through Lepakshi outlets across the two states, including Hyderabad.

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