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‘Dolls That Look Like Us’: Assam Designer Makes Heritage Dolls to Represent His Culture

‘Dolls That Look Like Us’: Assam Designer Makes Heritage Dolls to Represent His Culture

After living in various parts of India, Kirat Brahma became aware of the discrimination faced by those from Northeastern states. In 2021, he started Zankla Studio, which makes eco-friendly toys to tell the stories of Assam's culture and tribes.

Imagine playing with toys that come from your community and represent your culture. Wouldn’t it be amazing?

Growing up in a small village located between the border of India and Bhutan in Assam’s Baksa district, Kirat Brahma’s childhood was full of folklore and tribal tales.

While Kirat lived in different parts of the country, he longed to come back home and create a product that highlights our culture for the upcoming generations. 

In 2021, he started Zankla Studio with the aim of showcasing the rich culture of the Bodo Tribe. The studio creates handmade plastic-free soft toys that narrate stories deeply connected to the local culture and traditions of the Bodo community.

“When I was growing up, I did not have toys that represented people like me and others from my community. The markets are flooded with Spiderman, Mickey Mouse and Barbie dolls. So I wanted to create something to spread awareness among people about the existence of Northeastern communities,” he notes. 

Each toy created at Zankla Studio carries a narrative native to the tribe or is a representation of a prominent person from the tribe, such as Ada Lowdoom – a Bodo traveller, Bodo Jwhwlao – a traditional Bodo fighter, Gowdang Rani – a Bodo princess.

The products are sourced locally and are plastic-free. The toys come with a pamphlet containing the story or the tale of the fictional or real character that the toy is based on, explains Kirat.

As for future plans, Kirat says, “I wish to hire more artisans, hence providing more employment opportunities to the people of my tribe. To me, this is more than just a business; it is my chance to add value to my community and showcase it to the world.”

Like Kirat’s work?

Watch this short video to learn more about the stories behind the toys: 

YouTube player

(Edited by Padmashree Pande)

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