This Manipur Artist Uses Waste Husk to Make Gorgeous Dolls!

Written by , Beauty & Lifestyle Enthusiast Chaitra Krishnan Beauty & Lifestyle Enthusiast Experience: 5 years
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Do you ever wonder what we can create from the things that we discard in the name of “waste?” Remember the “wealth out of waste” competitions that we used to participate in school? As children if we could get that creative with paper bits and old rugs. Why don’t we do more when we’re adults? Well, the answer is quite simple— we don’t have the time. When most of us run towards a global culture and unhealthy lifestyle like a heard of sheep, there are people who can extract beauty from waste. It’s not easy and you need to be extremely talented to dedicate your life to doing something like that. Neli Chachea from Manipur is one such person who has found the purpose of her life in making dolls out of waste husk. And trust us, these dolls aren’t like the creepy raggedy dolls you see in horror movies. They are really pretty and have fans all across the globe.

The story of Neli and her doll-making career date back to when she was just a kid. Something that started as a hobby is now her passion and source of income. Read on to know more about Neli and her beautiful dolls.

A One Of A Kind Artist

Neli is surely not like most of the artists you know. This is simply because her art supplies come from corn silk and husk. As a child, Neli always watched her mother separate the corn from the non-edible parts that came with it. This was a daily activity followed in most Manipuri houses back in the time. Neli attempted to make a doll for herself from the waste that was leftover, just so that her mother didn’t have to buy her a doll from the stall.

In an interview with an online portal, Neli said, “I never knew if I would become an artist. I just knew that I was making my own playmates so that mother would not need to get me new dolls. And, now after years, it is why I wake up every morning.” She also added, “Beauty is in everything, including waste. You just need to know how to mold and use it. My mother inspired me to pursue this art when I was young, and I will do the same for the next generations. Although simple, this is too precious an art to die with time!”

The 38-year-old artist is also a florist. Her dolls are pretty and simple. However, there’s a lot of work that goes into them and they have small details that one cannot miss. Corn husk is used for the body parts of the doll and corn silk is used for the hair. Also, dried flowers are added for extra detailing and a touch of light color. Most of Neli’s dolls are pretty much of the same light brownish color. 12 dolls can be made in a day and they are priced at a range between 200 and 500 Rupees based on their details and perfection.

Neli earns around 45,000 Rupees every month on an average with her doll making business. With more and more people changing their lifestyle and choices towards an eco-friendly society, Neli’s business is definitely growing at a pretty good rate. She decided to turn her doll-making hobby into her profession in 2000 and later, opened a workshop to train women and children her craft. She has conducted training sessions in Bhopal and Mysore owing to the popularity garnered by her dolls.

Neli’s Climb To Success

Image: moralpatrika / Instagram

Neli participated in the 2nd International Flora Expo, at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, in 2017. The event was organized in association with the Indian Flowers and Ornamental Plants Welfare Association that comes under the Ministry of Agriculture. This expo provided Neli with a platform, where she could showcase her art to the public. As a result, she got invited to many places around the country to teach and exhibit her art. Also, it got her the opportunity to showcase her work at the Manipur Sangai Festival in 2017.

Today, she works at Horizon, a store in Imphal that connects small enterprises with a wider customer base and promotes indigenous art forms of Manipur. “I am happy with all the appreciation, but honestly more than that, it is my work that gives me real joy. When I look at the future, I see myself, sitting at the workshop in my village, spending hours making the dolls, nothing else. I am thrilled this way!” Neli said.

Can you imagine? If people marketed eco-friendly dolls like that of Neli’s instead of the plastic ones, one day our landfills will have a significantly lower toxic waste? Getting kids such dolls not only will encourage them to live in harmony with nature, but also teach them about the value of our roots and culture. What do you think about these corn husk dolls? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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