Tamil Nadu

Toda embroidered masks help in the fight against COVID-19

The masks, made of cloth, are embroidered with intricate Toda designs, and sold for around ₹ 225 each.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

More than a hundred women and indigenous Toda artisans from the Nilgiris are producing thousands of stylish, embroidered masks for local residents, police, and sanitary workers.

The masks, made of cloth, are embroidered with intricate Toda designs, and sold for around ₹ 225 each. These have been a huge hit, with demand for the masks coming from Coimbatore, Chennai and New Delhi, said Mathew John from Keystone Foundation, which is using its marketing arm, Last Forest, to market the masks.

The masks are produced by Indian Yards, Coonoor and Shalom Ooty, who are partnering with Last Forest to market the masks. While Indian Yards has been empowering more than 50 local women by training them on how to stitch articles of clothing, Shalom Ooty regularly employs over 150 Toda artisans to embroider indigenous Toda designs on bags, shawls and other items till the pandemic hit.

Sheela Powell, founder of Shalom Ooty, said the idea to hand embroider designs on masks came to her as she realised that people will have to learn to incorporate masks as part of their everyday clothing for the foreseeable future. “By using the skills of the Todas to stitch the motifs, we are providing them with a stable livelihood, and also helping fight the pandemic,” said Powell.

Each mask with the special Toda embroidery costs more than a regular mask due to the intricate handwork that each artisan puts into producing a mask. A Toda artisan, who produces the motifs used on the mask, said that she gets anywhere between ₹50 - ₹100 for each single piece she produces, and added that because of demand for the masks, she has found work during the time of the COVID-19 spread.

“As there are no tourists coming into the district, there is no demand at all for Toda embroidered quilts, shawls or other clothes. But because of the demand for masks, our skills are being put to use and we get a livelihood in return,” said the artisan.

“The masks are not only functional, but are also an identity and a memory associated with the Nilgiris and its people,” said Mr. Mathew John.

The masks have already been dispatched for sale in stores in the Nilgiris and people can also order them online from the Last Forest website.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 10:36:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/toda-embroidered-masks-help-in-the-fight-against-covid-19/article31549252.ece

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