Girl power in Kodai: feminist icons turn into ragdolls in writer Smriti Lamech’s initiative

Feminist icons Maya Angelou, Frida Kahlo and Kalpana Chawla turn into placing playmates in writer Smriti Lamech’s initiative, The Smritsonian

In early 2020, the one tailor Smriti Lamech might discover close to her cottage in Kodaikanal was a grocer who additionally had a stitching machine in one nook of his store. She needed to transform some unused cloth into cushion covers for the home she had briefly moved into, to be nearer to her pre-teen youngsters in boarding faculty.

Then Lamech, 41, chanced upon Prowess, a ladies’s self-help group (SHG) with 16 seamstresses and gave them her order. By the time she returned to gather it a few months later, the SHG was reopening after the nation-wide lockdown. The ladies talked about how they’d barely acquired any new orders since earlier than the pandemic struck.

On their web site’s homepage, Prowess introduces their staff with {a photograph} of the ladies in shiny pattu saris who ‘produce a wide array of toys, puppets, furnishings and accessories, most of which are made with 100% cotton or silk fabrics’. That’s when it struck Lamech. This was nearly as good a chance as any to do one of many issues she had been which means to check out — rag dolls, however of feminist icons. Her first set (out now) consists of Indian-origin astronaut Kalpana Chawla, American poet and activist Maya Angelou, Indian educationist and social reformer Savitribai Phule, and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Nifty with cloth

Of the reminiscences she has of her childhood with an eclectic, fabric-collecting mom, Lamech has one which stands out. The household was travelling by street from Delhi to then-Madras, after they noticed a bunch of Lambani ladies on the freeway. They pulled over and her mom went to talk to them. A couple of minutes later, the Lambanis had been pulling out spare cholis (blouses) and different embroidered supplies from their baggage, as her mom took out cotton kurtas from her suitcase. They swapped the garments and, a couple of moments later, money was exchanged for a couple of items of their iconic silver jewelry.

The Frida Kahlo doll

The Frida Kahlo doll

Her mom additionally ran one of many solely boutiques in the 1990s in Allahabad, the place they had been based mostly. So Lamech has all the time had an eye fixed for recognizing cloth of aesthetic worth. (Though a journalist by coaching, she has been making outfits for her youngsters, upcycled décor for her home in Gurugram, and knick knacks for buddies.)

Using this expertise, and her working data of Tamil, she started spending time with the ladies at Prowess in early May to provide you with a set of 4 long-limbed rag dolls, below the initiative The Smritsonian. They don’t have any detailed faces — no eyes or nostril — however every carries one distinguishing characteristic of those ladies. Chawla comes in her NASA-orange spacesuit with a helmet and boots by a special crochet artist identified to Lamech; Angelou has thick darkish locks of hair and a detachable turban; Phule has her trademark horizontal bindi; and for Kahlo, it’s her unibrow.

Feminism for youngsters

Owing to Tamil Nadu’s state-wide ban on plastic, the dolls come snuggled in seersucker sleeping baggage, together with a letter addressed to the receiver, introducing themselves in first particular person. “I always wanted feminist dolls for my daughter and son, not battery or plastic dolls,” says Lamech over a name from Kodaikanal, the place she stays through the pandemic. “I did buy them a lot of Channapatna toys when they were growing up, but I also want my child to recognise a Kalpana Chawla or a Frida Kahlo at this age. My generation didn’t hear about them till we were in our teens — things are, of course, different now with the Internet — but these are women who deserved to be introduced to our lives much earlier,” she provides.

Girl power in Kodai: feminist icons turn into ragdolls in writer Smriti Lamech’s initiative

The label — whose identify is courtesy a buddy’s pun on the Smithsonian and Lamech’s penchant for gathering classic cloth, jewelry, and furnishings — additionally makes buntings with slogans like ‘Pride’, ‘Resist’, and ‘Hok Kolorob’, and face masks utilizing surplus cloth, envisioned as a extra fast-moving merchandise given the occasions.

“People are cautious about politics while doing business… even declaring yourself a feminist for fear of offending somebody,” says Lamech. “But I am not looking at a grand business. Even if I sell to four people, I’m happy with it.”

The assortment that includes masks, buntings and dolls is priced between ₹300 and ₹1,800. To order, name 9873344651 or electronic mail [email protected]

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