Art educator Rohini sources dolls from artisans

The display which has 2,000 dolls includes figurines of politicians and leaders. DH PHOTOS BY S K DINESH

Art collector Rohini Sen and husband Eshwar Naidu are displaying a collection of dolls at 1 Shantiroad gallery till October 19.

The display includes more than 2,000 dolls, which depict varied stories. Stories from Madurai like the birth of Meenakshi and her ordination, temples with architectural domes, the Mysuru Dasara procession, classroom setup, politicians and leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jayalalitha, M G Ramachandran, A P J Abdul Kalam and his team at ISRO and more have been beautifully curated here. 

The couple adopted the festival tradition and has never practised the ‘Gombe habba’ in their families. “We have brought the display to Bengaluru for the first time. Last year, we did a themed-display at our house in Thiruvananthapuram with South Indian temples and festivals. There we tried to show that pilgrimages are not just religious but also a social affair. This year, we have brought it to an art gallery, which is a different experience,” says Rohini.  

The duo aims to make the display “a celebration of crafts”. “From the general aesthetics to the colours involved, there is a lot to be understood from the collection. Our collection started off as decor for a wedding which progressed to collecting dolls throughout the year,” she adds. 

Rohini and Eshwar have been collecting dolls since 2014, post their marriage. “Quite often, people who do a doll display shop a few weeks before the festival days. We shop and commision these works throughout the year,” says Eshwar who accompanies Rohini on her trips to doll making communities. 

It is the couple’s love for toys and porcelain artworks which grew into such a collection. Rohini says, “This is just 75 per cent of our collection. The lack of space and the way the show was curated needed these dolls to be here. We have stories from the Ramayana, temple stories, leaders and politicians and many other contemporary themes also depicted here. The best part is that temple stories are also contemporary stories as they show a policeman or a child with sunglasses around.”

The dolls are custom-done and commisioned from the interiors of Madurai, Trichy, Nagercoil, Rameshwaram and Mysuru. “Our shopping experiences for dolls have been different. We often invest in dolls which are bigger. We visit families who are into doll making and ask them about themes or stories that they have been thinking of working on or ask them if they can work on a particular theme,” she adds.

The doll display is about celebrating crafts and the art of story-telling, for the couple.

“We like conversations that are happening at the venue. Traditionally, many families do these doll displays as pedagogy for their children; we do not want it to be restricted to classroom-style teaching. While the doll display brings the child out in one, it also makes one appreciate the craftsmanship behind the dolls,” she says.    

Eshwar and Rohini are excited to share their collection with Bengalureans. He adds, “The dolls were transported in a truck to the city and were carefully packed individually in bubble wrap. A few dolls did get damaged but the damage is negligible and Rohini, being an artist was able to fix them.” 

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Art educator Rohini sources dolls from artisans

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