FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 Kata Rocks
Login | Create Account Poll Currency Weather Facebook Youtube Search

Threatened by deforestation

INDIA: Artisan wood carvers who have been making intricate toys for Indian maharajas, ministers and their children for generations are facing ruin as the rare wood their unique products rely on disappears.

cultureenvironmentconstructionlandAFP

Sunday 3 June 2018, 01:00PM


Artisan wood carvers who have been making intricate toys for Indian maharajas, ministers and their children for generations are facing ruin as the rare wood their unique products rely on disappears. Photo: Noah Seelam / AFP

Artisan wood carvers who have been making intricate toys for Indian maharajas, ministers and their children for generations are facing ruin as the rare wood their unique products rely on disappears. Photo: Noah Seelam / AFP

The highly treasured, brightly coloured Kondapalli toys are under threat from deforestation, and in particular the rampant exploitation of the Tella Poniki tree.

The wooden elephants, soldiers and gods are named after the Andhra Pradesh village of Kondapalli, where artists have lived since the 16th century.

The craftsmen and women produce the figures for royalty and high-ranking politicians, with ministers still regularly giving Kondapalli toys as gifts to foreign dignitaries.

Their tradition depends on the Tella Poniki, a rare tree that only survives around the nearby city of Vijayawada. The disappearing forests mean the carvers must look further afield for supplies of the white wood, which is prized for its malleability.

The Kondapalli carvers are also battling the threat of digital toys and are wrestling with the quandary of whether to adopt modern machinery to up their efficiency and cut their prices.

“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 generation Kondapalli toy maker said.

Verma said the price of wood has doubled in the past three years because of the shortage. “Our margins have been squeezed,” he said.

“The wood from the tree is very soft and ideal for carving into various shapes,” explained 55-year-old S.K Ashra Funnisa, who has been making toys for more than 40 years.

Funnisa owns a small shop in Kondapalli’s busy market crammed with wooden elephants, bullock carts and figures from Hindu mythology.

She pointed to a Tella Poniki log that cost 400 rupees (B188.50) three years ago but now costs double.

J.S.N. Murthy, Andhra Pradesh chief forestry officer, said the state government planned to establish extra plantations to ease the crisis.

He explained many craftsman are unable to find legal local supplies and are approaching middlemen who pass off similar softwoods from further afield at higher prices.

Murthy said authorities would create up to five hectares of new land for Tella Poniki each year over the next two decades.

QSI International School Phuket

Competition from more modern toys and the growing attraction of machines also weighs heavily on Kondapalli.

“Eight to 10 hours of labour to carve 20 cows or buffaloes only gives me about 300 rupees (B141.38),” Shaik Moulali said at his cramped one-room home, which doubles as a workshop.

He sat with a jute basket of carved and part-finished animal figures in one corner. His wife, Baji Sheikh, sat with their two sons, cooking on a small stove at the other end.

“The introduction of machines will definitely reduce the effort and energy spent by people like me,” he said.

Others like Verma reject the replacement of traditional knives, brushes and chisels. “No genuine toymaker uses machines,” he said.

Men and women in Kondapalli families traditionally share the toy work. Men carve the wood work while women do the intricate painting.

Baji – who does household chores and takes care of sons Khaja, 9 and Shahin Baba, 12 – spends eight hours each day painting at least 50 animals.

“It’s time-consuming but 50 painted toys bring me about 100 rupees (B47.13),” she said.

Many locals say the authorities should do more to promote the toys that still have a special significance at festivals and social occasions.

More contemporary designs have been added to the toy catalogue, while the use of enamels and other modern paints have cut costs and made the toys more durable.

But even with these efforts, things 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 said.

“I just want them to study and find a job,” he said, gesturing toward his 15-year-old daughter nearby. Verma fears he will be the last toymaker in his family.

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Be the first to comment.

 

Phuket community
Phuket villa property market strong in mid-range, high-end takes a hit

Please don't become like your main competitor, just a mouth-piece for the property industry. Thi...(Read More)


French expat, 78, found safe in Phuket after dinghy gets lost in storm

Claude,I knew we all get careless when getting older and and have done it so many time over and over...(Read More)


No special ‘temporary’ driver’s licences for tourists

DK, it still doesn't make your comment correct, lao khao dulls the mind, and the ability to thin...(Read More)


Phuket jet-ski, parasail operators threatened for operating in strong waves

Clever Phuket Marine office. Just warning after the weather ordeal is almost over, not BEFORE on 14...(Read More)


US withdraws from ‘cesspool’ UN rights body

Congratulations on the US action. Looking forward to Australia doing the same. I was bullied throug...(Read More)


Surapong gets two years for issuing Thaksin’s passport

It is funny to read all this shuffling. In a few years time, when democracy restored, Junta peopl...(Read More)


Phuket villa property market strong in mid-range, high-end takes a hit

Again Knight Frank is posting fake news. Anybody that is following agents sites can see the drop dow...(Read More)


Phuket condo market climbs after big hit

Nice try Knight Frank, but such fake news will not blind the eyes of people. For last 2 years you ca...(Read More)


3,000 people arrested for gambling on World Cup

What a nonsense. World wide there is legal football bidding/gambling . What is the fascination of th...(Read More)