Creative Dignity is a movement by a network of people across India who stand united for the upliftment of art, craftsmen and the artisanal sector. They came together to support, provide relief, rehabilitation and rejuvenation for the artisans who were suffering from the impacts of Covid 19. Lakshmi Menon, founder of Pure Living is a designer and a social entrepreneur based in Kerala who joined Creative Dignity. She tells Ritz about how the organisation has been trying to create awareness about the issues faced by rural artisans and how each of us can help them in our own little way.
“Born as a livelihood initiative post the first Covid19 lockdown by CreativeDignity (CD), Karuna Dolls has become a network of women artisan groups that create fun expressions of hope in the form of collectible traditional Indian handmade dolls. With the support of all the Makers, Axis Bank Foundation, and Axtel Industries karunadolls.com is now live in an effort to bring these happy creations to the children of today and celebrate handmade, old- school play toys. Our sisterhood works to connect, like a bridge between rural and urban India”, says Lakshmi Menon who was also the mastermind behind the famous Chekutty dolls of Kerala. Chekutty was born to support the Chendamangalam weavers after the floods hit Kerala and brought massive loss to the handloom weavers. Chekutty was a huge hit and it brought donations and support from across the world, including international organisations like the UN. So how did it all begin? Since 2020 Corona is wrecking havoc especially among the artisan community, with lives being lost and businesses and the economy in general taking a beating.
Creative Dignity decided to support artisans by creating the ‘Karuna dolls’ to represent the rich culture and artform of each state. To represent Kerala on the national platform, Lakshmi Menon decided to promote the Kathakali doll and Kathakili doll. “While the Kathakili doll is a parrot (‘kili’ means bird in Malayalam) and symbolises the flora, fauna and the environment of Kerala, the Kathakali doll symbolises Kerala’s artform, Kathakali. The doll also echoes so many different elements of Kerala such as our craftsmanship, music, dance, face painting techniques, wood carving, story telling and epics, literature, costume design, instrumental music and culture. This, I felt, was just amazing. It is also a form of finger puppetry which is relatively new to Kerala but the good news is that the dolls are making their presence felt. The CBSE is considering including the dolls in its pedagogy as a form of story telling,” says an excited Lakshmi. She introduced these dolls on social media – the Kathakali and Kathakili, who are setting off a on a journey to meet their friends (other Karuna dolls) across the country. Lakshmi says that she received an overwhelming response from people across the globe.
Apart from being used as souvenirs, display pieces and dolls for children, the Creative Dignity team came up with the idea of adding a utility element to these dolls, which gave them an extra edge. So now, these dolls are also being used as napkin rings. Lakshmi has successfully trained a team of women to make these dolls which serves as a source of income for them apart from being a great medium of creative expression.
Join the Karuna Community and show some love to these karunadolls. You can buy them at creativedignity.org and follow them at instagram.com/karunadolls