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This set of curios was crafted by Charvi’s great grandmother Ranganayaki in the 1920s . A whimsical arrangement of celluloid dolls of babies, birds and animals strung with plastic beads and ribbon flowers placed inside a corked glass bottle, they were passed down four generations and have been a permanent exhibit in the family’s Gollu display during Navratri.
The creation is shrouded in an air of mystery – why were they created? Moreover, considering the difference in the size of the bottleneck and the arrangement within, how were they created? Charvi became fascinated with how the piece, easily dismissible as an object of decoration, a product of a housewife’s creative outlet or simply a means to pass time, was in fact a soft rebellion in its own right – using materials and techniques often dismissed as “women’s work” to create a manifestation of their identity that has stood the test of time.
Charvi’s great grandmother, Ranganayaki (right), and grandmother Vedavalli (left) - who created and modified the curios
Growing up, Charvi thought the bottles looked mildly grotesque. However that view changed when she realised that this was simply a reaction to something that went against accepted forms of aesthetic beauty. She began incorporating this grotesque element through the print of the garments she was working on at design school.
She attempted to hide in plain sight as well as subvert the archetype of a ‘doll’ that represents the accepted idea of a woman in society. The explorations led her to appreciate belonging to a line of creative women who put to use materials available around them to design something significant and valuable enough to pass down as an object of heritage.
“My great grandmother was the creator, my grandmother was a modifier, my mother was a preserver and I was the transformer”
Charvi Venkat, 24
Charvi Venkat (she/her) is a fashion designer and illustrator from Hyderabad now studying in Milan. Her work is guided by explorations in the ideas of ambiguity of memory, touch and protection of the body particularly through the medium of menswear. She’s interested in dismantling codes of gender, identity and clothing to create something that embraces duality and imperfection.