Karuna dolls spread hope and joy during the pandemic

Kovid Kumari symbolises hope and joy. She is one of the many Karuna (compassion) dolls being made across the country to highlight the plight of artisans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conceptualised and promoted by the voluntary online movement (CD), these dolls are being created by women spinners, weavers and embroiderers from their homes: from Punjab to Puducherry.

The finger-sized Karuna dolls will be launched on National Handloom Day (August 7) by each State, and the project will be unfurled on August 15. An app that will make it easier for artisans to get onboard digital marketing platforms is also in the making, and will be launched soon.

This is part of a larger programme to connect artisans and their craft with a market.

Says Creative Dignity’s Meera Goradia, who has been working with artisans in various capacities for 30 years, “CD has brought together diverse creative producers, practitioners and professionals to energise the ecosystem that Indian artisans need now. Our focus is to provide relief, and rejuvenation in a bid to ensure the sustained prosperity of artisans.”

Regional heritage

Rajasthan’s Maru doll is inspired by the famous folk tale Dhola Maru.

On the other hand, “Kovid Kumari from Haryana represents the craft of crochet. She works with women in the villages telling them that their family’s health is in their hands,” says Bindu Manchanda, who oversees the dolls from Haryana and Rajasthan and is the head of INTACH Community, Craft and Heritage . Around 25 women in the villages around Hisar were trained to make the dolls, she says, adding, “The sale of the dolls will supplement their income.”

Punjab’s Karuna dolls are the brother-sister duo Veerawali and Veer, says Lakshmi Ahuja over phone from Bhatinda. “Our dolls are imbued with the spirit of karuna found in the langar served in gurudwaras, which ensure that no one goes hungry. In Punjabi folklore, Veerawali has many brothers and is the darling of her family. She is always ready to help. The dolls highlight the naada-making (drawstrings used in salwars) and paraandi (braids) crafts of Punjab. Fabric left over from garment-making, including men’s turbans and women’s dupattas, are being used for these.”

Karuna dolls spread hope and joy during the pandemic

Meera explains that they are working to enable artisans to align with the digital world and creating campaigns for stock sales. “Design schools such as Srishti, NIFT, IICD hand-hold the artisans in taking professional photographs and uploading them. We are building a stock sales listing, inviting B2B buyers to meet and interact with artisans.”

In Puducherry, Karuna is a resurrection of Tsunamika, the doll born out of the devastating 2004 Tsunami, which was created by Uma Prajapati and her team at Upasana.

“By supporting the handmade industry,” says Uma, “you are providing creative dignity to over 200 million artisans who are passing the art from one generation to another.” Uma’s team made six million Tsunamika dolls that were retailed across 80 countries. “For the Karuna doll, we have chosen a colour combination and material that is representative of the South. A loop has been attached that makes it utterly versatile to be used as keychains or other accessories,” says Uma.

French connect

Meanwhile a group of women in Patna are busy making Babua and Babuni dolls for the project.

Coordinator Veena Upadhyay, who rejuvenated the craft of extra weft among artisans in Bihar’s Siwan district, says that the prototype dolls were gifted as souvenirs when the women represented Bun Kar Bihar (a retail brand) at Maison et Objet, a major French trade fair in Paris in December 2019. “So when the idea came up, we had the prototype ready. The women are helped by their daughters and that is how the artistry is handed down through generations.”

Karuna dolls spread hope and joy during the pandemic

Chekutty, the little doll that became a symbol of the resilience of Kerala weavers during the 2018 floods, will now have a Karuna representative: the Kadhakali finger puppet. “It will be made using Kerala handloom. Kathakali is a single art form that ties together many facets of Kerala. Its story will be narrated through micro puppetry,” says Lakshmi Menon, co-founder, Chekutty adding that the Kadhakali finger puppetry is new to Kerala story telling.

In time, CD plans to introduce more crafts to the repertoire, including metal, wood and leather.

As these dolls get ready to be launched, many ideas are still being formulated. One is a Karuna doll beginning her journey in an electric vehicle from one State, and other dolls joining her as she traverses through the country, spreading hope and joy.

Contact Creative Dignity at 9821233473

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 1:14:34 AM |

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