Art doll

Popular Auroville doll project joins forces with UN mission to save the oceans

The Auroville Tsunamika Project, which has transformed gift dolls handcrafted by fisherwomen devastated by the 2004 tsunami into a global symbol of hope and belief, is set to play a key role in the global campaign of the United Nations for sustainable oceans.

The tsunamika will take on the avatar of an aquatic goddess in the campaign that seeks to build a conversation about the oceans and highlight the need for conservation as part of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

“The importance of ocean conservation is not emphasized enough in ecology education in India. Our goal is to kick it off by generating a conversation about ocean conservation in a country that has a 7,500km coastline,” said Uma Prajapati, Founder of Upasana Design Studio and spearhead of the tsunamika project.

“We will soon be rolling out campaigns in schools, stimulating conversation about the interconnectedness of the oceans and human well-being at the local level, and involving the creative community in spreading awareness,” she said.

The plan will involve multi-platform ocean-themed interventions, such as school programs for school children, stop motion animation films, art installations, books and short films.

“Our network of over 1,000 designers is already thinking about the campaign. We also receive many requests from volunteers wishing to join the campaign… which is very encouraging, not only from places surrounded by water like the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but even from places which do not have of coastline…like Rajasthan,” Ms. Prajapati said.

Although the Tamil Nadu State School Board has included the tsunamika story in the sixth grade school curriculum, the tsunamika project plans to develop school learning modules on ecology that highlight the oceans on the lines of the program designed by the UK-based Ocean Conservation. Confidence.

The Tsunamika Story

In the days following the 2004 tsunami, Ms. Prajapati set out to help affected coastal families by offering trauma counseling to more than 600 women fishermen in villages around Auroville. Soon, Upasana formed the first group of about 180 women to make small dolls from recycled fabric scraps. These dolls were named tsunamika.

The doll-making project has helped women focus on rebuilding their lives and, most importantly, earning a living. As the story of the tsunamika spread, several organizations, in order to help coastal women, procured them in bulk and distributed them as gifts to their employees.

What began as a mission of livelihood and empowerment, and a support mechanism for the women and children of the region to cope with the devastation they were experiencing, went on to illustrate many dimensions – a success story in community empowerment and rebuilding, a global gift economy enterprise and beacon of hope for humanity around the world.

To date, over six million dolls have been manufactured and distributed in 80 countries through a global network. The tsunamika storybook has received recognition from UNESCO and has been translated into German, Russian, Danish, French, Spanish and Tamil.

The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development takes place against the backdrop of the relentless human assault on the oceans that is killing more than a million seabirds through pollution, threats food supply and changes marine food chains due to overfishing.

About 80% of ocean pollution comes from land and coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to pollutants – major sources being septic tanks, plastic waste, trash, oil spills, toxic waste, agricultural waste and industrial waste. Worse still, the pressure exerted on the coasts by climate change manifests itself in extreme temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, an increased incidence of extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

Since 2019, Upasana has led coastal cleanup initiatives, pledge campaigns and film screenings, as part of turning ocean conservation into a movement. These activities revolved around the theme “Tsunamika: Ocean My Home” and aimed to raise awareness and take action to conserve, protect and restore the oceans locally and globally.

“We hope that in his new avatar, tsunamika, will also enter the league of fictional superheroes whose mission is to save the future of the world,” Ms. Prajapati said.