There are many artists and designers in the world who are leaving us amazed with their breathtaking artworks. However, the story of Assam-based Kirat Brahma is so unique and inspiring that it stands out in the world of creativity and entrepreneurship.
As fascinating as it may sound, leaving a well-settled career of ten years as an animation designer to use the artistic talent to represent the community, the Bodo people, through the medium of eco-friendly soft toys, isn’t easy at all.
While Kirat was working with clients all over the country, he realised that there was a lack of awareness concerning people from the Northeastern parts. Thus, by 2020 he made up his mind to return to his home town and start looking for ideas that would bring awareness about the Bodo community. That’s when he came up with the idea of making eco-friendly sustainable soft toys and incepted Zankla Studio.
We connected with Kirat Brahma to learn more about his vision and how his initiative is spreading awareness about the Bodo culture.
1. What inspired you to incept Zankla Toys and start making eco-friendly soft toys with a focus on the Bodo community’s customs and culture?
I hail from the Bodo Tribe in Bodoland, Assam. I am the Co-Founder of Zankla Studio. My educational qualifications include a degree in visual communication design from the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.
The Zankla Toys is purely a project which originated out of necessity in a quest to introduce innovative toys that narrate the rich tales, customs and culture of tribal communities.
To make Zankla toys, we follow a sustainable model to preserve the heritage of culturally handcrafted toys. We source raw materials locally and train artisans within the community. The Bodo community is just one example of our efforts, given my own roots, but we are equally devoted to representing other communities and sharing their tales.
2. What are some of the unique aspects of the Bodo community’s customs and culture that you incorporate into your soft toys?
We make “Toys with a Purpose”. Many people don’t know the existence of our community, leading to misunderstandings and even racial discrimination. We believe with Zankla Toys we can start a discussion and represent communities on a global level. Therefore, incorporating the culture and stories of our communities is a very essential part of our toys.
3. Shed light on the process of creating one of your soft toys, from ideation to the finished product.
The process starts with collaborating with local weavers for raw materials and training villagers, including students, homemakers, and migrant workers. We then select the toy’s theme after doing proper R&D. After completing the research and deciding on the theme, we start the design process which begins with sketches and prototypes. We carefully choose fabrics that not only enhance aesthetics but also carry cultural significance.
In each toy, we infuse a narrative that authentically represents the culture and tradition.
4. Share any one example of a soft toy you’ve created that has particularly meaningful stories or cultural significance.
Let me share the story of “Gowdang Rani.” In the kingdom of Bodoland, there lived a remarkable queen named Gowdang Rani. Her name, “Gowdang,” symbolised completeness, much like the full moon’s radiant glow. Wise and compassionate, she united her people, fostering harmony and prosperity. Empowering Bodo women to preserve their heritage, she was a guiding light in tradition. Her reign brought joy and unity, a symbol of greatness.
5. In what ways do you hope your soft toys can raise awareness and appreciation for the Bodo community’s customs and culture among a broader audience?
I believe that there are many powerful tools like innovative toys, stories, comic books and animation shorts which can foster awareness about the Bodo community.
Our animation shorts, currently in the process, would help a lot in this regard. This is the platform where we would incorporate the Bodo community’s customs and culture. I believe, animation as a medium, can surely play a pivotal role in depicting the culture and reaching a broader audience.
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