The Hindu

Ty­ing up with To­das to keep the virus at bay

Tra­di­tional tribal ar­ti­sans from the Nil­giris are pro­duc­ing masks with ex­quis­ite em­broi­dery

- Ro­han Premku­mar India · Koyampattur · Madras · New Delhi · Delhi · Coonoor · Ootacamund

As the COVID-19 out­break con­tin­ues to sweep across the coun­try, a small cor­ner of In­dia has come for­ward to use its tra­di­tional skills to help peo­ple ward off the in­fec­tion.

More than a hun­dred women and indige­nous Toda ar­ti­sans from the Nil­giris are pro­duc­ing thou­sands of stylish, em­broi­dered masks for lo­cal res­i­dents, po­lice, and san­i­tary work­ers.

The cloth masks, are em­broi­dered with in­tri­cate

Toda de­signs, and sold for around ₹225 each. These have been a huge hit, with de­mand for the masks com­ing from Coimbatore, Chen­nai and New Delhi, said Mathew John from Key­stone Foun­da­tion, which is us­ing its mar­ket­ing arm, Last For­est, to mar­ket them.

The masks are pro­duced by In­dian Yards in Coonoor and Shalom Ooty, who are part­ner­ing with Last For­est. While In­dian Yards has been em­pow­er­ing more than 50 lo­cal women by train­ing them on how to stitch ar­ti­cles of cloth­ing, Shalom

Ooty reg­u­larly em­ploys over 150 Toda ar­ti­sans to em­broi­der indige­nous de­signs on bags, shawls and other items.

Sheela Pow­ell, founder of Shalom Ooty, said the idea to hand em­broi­der de­signs on masks came to her as she re­alised that peo­ple will have to learn to in­cor­po­rate masks as part of their ev­ery­day cloth­ing for the fore­see­able fu­ture. “By us­ing the skills of the To­das to stitch the mo­tifs, we are pro­vid­ing them with a sta­ble liveli­hood,” said Ms. Pow­ell.

A Toda ar­ti­san, who em­broi­ders the mo­tifs on masks, said she gets any­where be­tween ₹50-100 for each sin­gle piece she pro­duces, and added that be­cause of de­mand for the masks, she has found work de­spite the lock­down.

“As there are no tourists com­ing into the district, there is no de­mand at all for Toda em­broi­dered quilts, shawls or other clothes. But be­cause of the de­mand for masks, our skills are be­ing put to use and we get a liveli­hood in re­turn,” she said.

The masks have al­ready been dis­patched for sale in stores in the Nil­giris and peo­ple can also or­der them on­line from the Last For­est web­site.

 ??  ?? The masks are sold for around ₹225 each.
The masks are sold for around ₹225 each.

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