Tsunamika: A tiny doll from India is making waves around the world
These dolls, hardly more than 3 cms in height, have helped fisherwomen devastated by the 2004 tsunami to overcome their trauma. The power of these dolls was such that they became a symbol of hope not only for the tsunami survivors, but also for millions of other people around the world.
The ‘Tsunamika’ project was conceived by Upasana Design Studio, an Auroville-based garment design unit in Puducherry, Tamil Nadu. Upasana not only trains women to make the dolls, but also provides the raw material, largely left-over fabric. The fisherwoman thread the waste cloth together into little dolls and also earn a livelihood. Today, about 200 women from the fishing community actively participate in this project.
Tsunamika also represents the joy of unconditional giving. Anyone can order for these dolls without having to pay for them. Any payment made is totally voluntary. The project gifted 100,000 dolls to survivors of Japan’s March 2011 tsunami and earthquake . Impressed with the dolls and the idea behind them, a Danish multinational retailer, operating a chain of 2,000 outlets around the world, asked for 54,000 Tsunamika dolls to include them in the company’s employee gift package.
The project has attracted much interest outside India. Schools in Singapore, Spain, Denmark, and several other countries have held exclusive events and talks focusing on Tsunamika. The idea behind the doll and the huge success it enjoyed has also become a case study for students of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi. A storybook on Tsunamika has been translated into German, Russian, Danish, French, Tamil and Spanish, and the UNESCO has awarded the project a special endorsement.
A number of letters from those who have received a Tsunamika as a gift speak of the many different ways in which these dolls have impacted people. The project, started as a post-trauma empowerment programme, has become a celebrated story of optimism and regeneration. 10 years after the tsunami hit coasts across South and South East Asia, more than 5 million Tsunamika dolls have been gifted worldwide – each with its own story to tell.
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