KONDAPALLI: Artisan wooden carvers who’ve been making intricate toys for Indian maharajas, ministers and their youngsters for generations are going through spoil because the uncommon wooden their distinctive merchandise depend on disappears.
The extremely treasured, brightly colored Kondapalli toys are below menace from deforestation, and particularly the rampant exploitation of the Tella Poniki tree.
The wood elephants, troopers and gods are named after the Andhra Pradesh village of Kondapalli, the place artists have lived for the reason that 16th century.
The craftsmen and girls produce the figures for royalty and high-ranking politicians, with ministers nonetheless commonly giving Kondapalli toys as items to international dignitaries.
Their custom depends upon the Tella Poniki, a uncommon tree that solely survives across the close by metropolis of Vijayawada. The disappearing forests imply the carvers should look additional afield for provides of the white wooden, which is prized for its malleability.
The Kondapalli carvers are additionally battling the specter of digital toys and are wrestling with the quandary of whether or not to undertake fashionable equipment to up their effectivity and lower their costs.
“Market demand and curiosity for these toys may be increasing but we are nothing without quality wood at a reasonable price,” Bharani Kota Verma, a 48-year-old fifth era Kondapalli toymaker advised AFP.
Verma mentioned the value of wooden has doubled previously three years due to the scarcity. “Our margins have been squeezed,” he mentioned.
“The wood from the tree is very soft and ideal for carving into various shapes,” defined 55-year-old S.Ok Ashra Funnisa, who has been making toys for greater than 40 years.
Rare tree threatened
Funnisa owns a small store in Kondapalli´s busy market filled with wood elephants, bullock carts and figures from Hindu mythology.
She pointed to a Tella Poniki log that value 400 rupees ($7) three years in the past however now prices double.
J.S.N. Murthy, Andhra Pradesh chief forestry officer, mentioned the state authorities deliberate to ascertain additional plantations to ease the disaster.
He defined many craftsman are unable to seek out authorized native provides and are approaching middlemen who cross off related softwoods from additional afield at greater costs.
Murthy mentioned authorities would create as much as 5 hectares (12 acres) of recent land for Tella Poniki every year over the following 20 years.
Competition from extra fashionable toys and the rising attraction of machines additionally weighs closely on Kondapalli.
“Eight to 10 hours of labour to carve 20 cows or buffaloes only gives me about 300 rupees ($5),” Shaik Moulali mentioned at his cramped one-room house, which doubles as a workshop.
He sat with a jute basket of carved and part-finished animal figures in a single nook. His spouse, Baji Sheikh, sat with their two sons, cooking on a small range on the different finish.
“The introduction of machines will definitely reduce the effort and energy spent by people like me,” he mentioned.
Others like Verma reject the alternative of conventional knives, brushes and chisels. “No genuine toymaker uses machines,” he mentioned.
Men and girls in Kondapalli households historically share the toy work. Men carve the wooden work whereas ladies do the intricate portray.
Baji — who does family chores and takes care of sons Khaja, 9 and Shahin Baba, 12 — spends eight hours every day portray not less than 50 animals.
“It´s time-consuming but 50 painted toys bring me about 100 rupees ($1.5),” she mentioned.
Many locals say the authorities ought to do extra to advertise the toys that also have a particular significance at festivals and social events.
More up to date designs have been added to the toy catalogue, whereas the usage of enamels and different fashionable paints have lower prices and made the toys extra sturdy.
But even with these efforts, issues look bleak.
“The next generation, who can earn more without learning these tough skills and the hard work, isn´t interested in entering this field like people did 10 or 20 years back,” Verma mentioned.
“I just want them to study and find a job,” he mentioned, gesturing towards his 15-year-old daughter close by. Verma fears he would be the final toymaker in his household.