To give expression to her love of doll-making, Bhaanukumari made dolls using cotton clothes, stitched and stuffed with fenugreek (methi) seeds. From that to using paper-mache as a medium to make dolls has been a long journey. While loving arts and creative expressions, Bhaanukumari has truly been a people’s person. She has been involved in many various activities that were altruistic in nature – donation drives, charity drives. Instead of treating herself as a one-person army, she always believed in the power of collective effort. She put in huge efforts to bring people together to contribute positively to various social causes.
One of her many endeavors was to regularly go to Matrusevasangh in Nagpur, a rehabilitation center for physically challenged people. Bhaanukumari and Ramani spent time with girls in the center and taught them some art work. In their efforts to further support these girls, Ramani started a workshop for 5-6 girls from the center.
It was only recently that the mother-daughter were exploring paper-mache as a medium to work with to make dolls. Ramani, was invited to hold exhibitions in Norway and some other locations in Scandinavia. The wonderfully overwhelming response encouraged her to continue on this path. Even though she started this as a hobby, she could immediately think of how this would help the girls from Matrusevasangh. And thus, started the workshop.
The products were not nearly as detailed and fine then as they are now. With no arts background or guidance, Ramani had to try different things and methods to finally develop the paper-mache doll-making art form the way it is today. But, all these long years of persistent hard work paid off as some of the women she trained and employed initially are continuing the art work on their own and sustaining themselves. Now there are more than 15 women that have been trained and are employed at the workshop. Ramani says, “This has indeed been quite a rewarding experience. Both in terms of how far we have brought this form of art and how many lives have been touched by it.”
Top: Smt. Bhanukumari admiring and showing us a Devi Doll
Bottom: Ramani showing us how she gives the final touches to her dolls
Top: Smt. Bhanukumari admiring and showing us a Devi