After floods wreaked havoc in Kerala, Chekutty dolls of the Chendamangalam handloom became an insignia for courage and resilience as designer and entrepreneur Laxmi Menon fashioned tiny dolls with bright smiles out of the soiled and ruined sarees swept by floods.
‘Chekutty’ is made from two Malayalam words- ‘Cheru’, meaning mud or soil and ‘Kutty’ meaning child. Chekutty then represents the resilience of a muddy-child who has braved the ravages of the floods.
Two entrepreneurs Laxmi Menon and Gopinath Parayil stepped forward to raise funds for floods crippled the age-old handloom village Chendamangalam in the Ernakulam district of Kerala in an innovative way. They fashioned tiny dolls with bright smiles out of the soiled and ruined cloth pieces that were left behind. With their machinery and raw materials destroyed, the weavers felt a surge of despair and an inability to regain their lost livelihood.
As per Laxmi, the Chekutty was a profitable venture for the weavers. A normal six-yard saree would sell for about Rs. 1500. Around 360 dolls could be made out of one saree, and each doll was sold for Rs. 25. This earned the weavers a much higher amount, about Rs. 9000.The popularity of Chekutty dolls has cut across geographical boundaries and is in huge demand worldwide. After people came across it through social media platforms.
Even the international organisations like the World Bank placed a bulk order for the Chekutty dolls for the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which was held in Switzerland’s Geneva last month.
She also held workshops for making the dolls in the USA, France, and Germany along with several other countries. One travel company in Australia rolled out tours to Chendamangalam to learn the art of Chekutty from weavers firsthand. Lakshmi’s other initiatives include ‘Seedpen’, a disposable handcrafted paper pen that is ‘plantable’ as it has a seed inside it.