76-year-old S. Devaki from the Indian state of Kerala has been recreating Hindu epics and mythological stories using old Barbie dolls.
Abhay, an architect based in Kerala, describes his mother to The Better India as a “voracious reader.” He adds it is the reading that has inspired her to recreate the sacred themes into beautiful scenes.
S. Devaki is a BSc graduate in Chemistry who chose to be a homemaker.
“While the children were growing up, there wasn’t much time on hand so everything was put on hold.”
She adds that as a parent, her sole aim and focus was her two children. However, by the time her children were married, S. Devaki couldn’t return to work and dedicated her time to her grandchildren.
“Now that the grandchildren are also grown up I realised that I had entered my retirement phase, and that was when I started looking for things to do. Somehow, my childhood came back to me and I recollected all the handiwork I would do and decided to try my hands at it again.”
As lockdown started in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, S. Devaki had the much-needed free time.
“The lockdown was a boon in one way because no one could step out for anything and that meant that I could pace myself and do things at leisure without having to worry about anyone else’s schedule.”
On seeing her younger granddaughters’ Barbie dolls lying around the house, she got an idea.
“I did not pick up the doll with the intention of doing this, it just happened.”
S. Devaki’s first project was the ‘Brides of Kerala’ in which she has used three Barbie dolls to depict three different communities in Kerala.
“I used material that was lying around at home to make their sarees and jewellery. I did not have to spend anything additional on putting their looks together.”
Next, she depicted the ‘Hamsa Damayanti’ scene from the famous painting by Raja Ravi Varma and created a Chandalabhikshuki doll that is part of the poem written by Kumaran Asan.
“I enjoy thinking about the story behind each doll I make. It takes me back to all the literary work I have grown up reading.”
S. Devaki has tp work really hard on small detail such as creating Indian jewelry, sari, hair, etc.
“SINCE ALL THE BARBIE DOLLS HAVE GOLDEN HAIR, I HAD TO ENSURE THAT I PAINTED IT BLACK.”
She has so far made sixteen dolls with Indian makeover and also intends to sell them in the future.