Kodaikanal’s Inclusive Smrithsonian Bommais Modeling Female Icons – The New Indian Express

Express press service

Kalpana Chawla, Savitribai Phule, Maya Angelou, Frida Kahlo, Sarla Thakral, Phoolan Devi and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Pass Barbie, hello Bommai (Traditional Tamil doll). Really, why bother with a plastic molded Barbie when your kids can have a famous personality to play with? Check out The Smritisonian of Kodaikanal’s offerings – rag dolls that not only honor the aforementioned feminist icons, but help our children discover these legends. That’s why each comes with a set of accessories and a note telling you about your leading lady. So there’s a book and a pencil or a palette, or a sleeping bag and, in Kalpana’s case, a rocket!

Lamech, a journalist and writer with more than two decades of experience in broadcasting and print media, and her husband, a finance professional, moved from Gurgaon to Kodaikanal about two years ago, where they had put their children in boarding school. They rented a cabin nearby, intending to spend more time in the hills than in town. There she came across a self-help group, Prowess, and its team of skilled seamstresses from whom she received sewn clothes and cushion covers before the pandemic. But soon the lockdown happened and Prowess’ business took a huge hit, as did the livelihoods of everyone involved.

Smriti Lamech

In this grim scenario, Lamech has taken it upon herself to create business for her new friends. And also take the opportunity to realize a long-standing dream: feminism taught to young people. So, combining her passion for fabrics, fashion and feminism, she decided to design these Bommais which introduce the concept to children from an early age, and above all, generate income for the seamstresses. All while adhering to a zero waste ideology, using no plastic and sourcing local materials.

Thus was born The Smritsonian, and dolls designed by Lamech were fashioned by these ladies and sold via Instagram. Indeed, a wonderfully unique concept of dolls of famous women, sewn by women, sold by women, telling you stories of perseverance, strength, imagination and inclusion. In fact, so inclusive there’s even a doll with a prosthetic limb.

“The ladies knew how to make simple stuffed Bommais and since they were going through an economic crisis, I didn’t have time to teach them anything radically different. I knew I had to build on existing knowledge and guide it towards more complex shapes, finer details and a focus on quality. Afterwards, it was up to me to create the narrative. Make dolls that looked like famous personalities, while making sure the features were simple enough to accommodate Waldorf pedagogy – too many features take away from that line of thinking, and it also ensures that the dolls are minimal enough to appeal to adults and become collectibles in a way,” she explains.

Although The Smritsonian also sells a variety of other products, it’s these Bommais that have really gone viral and hugely popular. “The response was what I had hoped for, yet much greater. The brand has grown organically and from a teaching aid in schools to throwback gifts for a 50 year old, they’ve traveled to places I didn’t think I could, in ways I couldn’t. didn’t imagine. They got people thinking and interacting with these historical figures, reading them and really understanding what they represent,” says Lamech. Indeed, as toys for children, they have also become great collectibles for adults.

“I had my own rag dolls when I was growing up and I always thought my daughter’s generation didn’t have access to them because of the Barbie doll culture, and for me it was an opportunity for change. that,” Lamech said. At the rate they are flying off the shelves, she certainly did.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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