The cluster of mud and brick houses in the plains of Punjab, Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka (TGD) looks like a typical Pakistani village about 80 kilometres away from Lahore, near Gogera Sadar
, and 40 kilometres from Indus civilization ruins in Harappa
. There is no gas or telephone in the village. No asphalt roads lead to it. Yet it is different, the beautiful dolls and other handicrafts made by the village folks are collectors' delight all over the world. Influencers from Indus civilization from nearby Harappa and modern techniques brought by the German volunteers can be seen in the village together.
The dolls made in the village are on display in international doll museum in Iceland, prestigious galleries and showrooms in Pakistan and abroad. TGD village doll project was one of the 767 worldwide projects presented in the "Themepark" at expo 2000 in Hannover (Germany) as an example of thinking of twenty first century. Earlier, the dolls from Pakistan participated in international toy fair in Nuremberg. These dolls show how culture goes beyond simple work of art and becomes collaboration among applied and natural sciences as well as other forces that affect our lives.
Thatta Kedona is a project, first of its kind, in rural area where handmade quality dolls and toys are crafted using all indigenous material and traditional designs based on cultural and folklore themes. The workmanship of the dolls and toys has acclaimed international recognition and clientele through their participation in numerous international events, exhibitions, fairs and display at International Doll Museum Iceland and Deutsche Gesellschafr zur Foerderung der Kultar, Germany. These toys are the embodiment of dreams, hopes and most of all self-reliance of the hands, which breathe a part of the soul into them.
How all this started? A Pakistan studying in Germany, Amjad Ali who is a native of village TGD invited his German teachers Dr. Senta Siller to visit his village back home. Dr. Senta Siller
along with Dr. Norbert Pinstch came to the village where they were presented a doll made by a local woman. Dr. Senta Siller was impressed by the doll and liked the natural and simple village life. She decided to work for the village; established NGO Anjumane-e-Falah-e-Aama and started community based Woman Art Centre in TGD in 1992. The aim of this centre is to involve local womenfolk in productive, creative and healthy income generating activities. For men Dr. Norbert Pintsch established Technology Transfer and Training Centre (TTTC). This created awareness and built confidence among the village folks and they started making dolls and toys on self-help biases that are marketed all over the world. The village and its residents are benefiting in the process.
This is a holistic project. Handicraft is in the spot on the stage but the project has a cultural philosophy. Education, science, agriculture, hydrogeology (drinking water project), appropriate technology, public health, economy (marketing, distribution), tourism and communication, are all in practice.
TTTC is concentrating on improved agricultural techniques and other suitable jobs for men. Also, carpenters, blacksmiths and tailors in the village are profitably involved in production for the TTTC for men. On Dr. Norbert Pintsch's arrival in Pakistan this time (November 2007), Nation took a chance to ask him about goals, the motives and motivations.
"The goals of the project are self-help activities at a grass roots levels, holistic village development, empowerment of women, income generation, and literacy and vocational training, says Dr. Norbert Pintsch. The philosophy working behind this selfless work is "preservation of cultural heritage, reduction of migration to cities by creating additional income in the village and future is in the rural areas," he added.
Dolls from Pakistan in authentic attires of the specific tribes, communities and areas and thematic toys tempt tourists and diplomats. They collect these dolls as a souvenir of the time they spent in Pakistan. "During last seven years, the Pakistani dolls have travelled in suitcases of our client to 40 different countries. They (dolls) sit in the ambassadors' residences not only in Islamabad, but accompany them to the next and second next posting. I have met TGD dolls in the Japanese ambassador's home in Jakarta and also in the German embassy in Damascus," tells Dr. Norbert Pintsch with pride and pleasure. "Part of the artists go where ever the dolls go," says a young artist. Each doll has a small plate attached carrying the name of the doll maker.
Doll making is one of the oldest and popular folk art in Pakistan. Simple stuffed dolls are made for children particularly in rural areas where people are still striving for the attainment of basic needs. The main difference of previous doll making and the modern techniques taught by Dr. Senta is that she has introduced variety in size and shapes and dresses them in colourful costumes with attentions to details. This has resulted in high quality soft toys to cater to demands of the gift market.
Work of Dr. Norbert Pintsch and Dr. Senta Siller has not only moved the people of area but also raised a spacious and simple building for the Women Art Centre and TTTC with the help of different donors. Now there are as many as 120 women from the age of 24 to 40 working in both the centres making dolls dressed in regional (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan, Balochi, Kashmiri and Kalash) embroider costumes, miniatures, hand knitted shawls tin rickshaws and other toys and earning their living. They are making their own lives better and strengthening their families. "They (the women) are moving towards true equality and independence" says a doll maker who has twelve year of schooling, is married in this village and working in the Centre.
Village TGD is changing. The relative prosperity has beginning to show. Villagers are putting their children, particularly the girls in school. The Woman Art Centre is also playing a part in the well being of the villagers. The Centre has provided furniture and other equipment to the primary school in village and opened a well equipped health care centre. An annual quality of life competition is held in the village when best houses are selected in three different categories.
This seems to be one of the unique and best self help project anywhere in Pakistan.