Photos: Abandoned Barbie dolls turn up in works of art, folk tales, poems

S Devaki, a homemaker from Thiruvananthapuram, is using her grandchildren’s abandoned Mattel dolls to recreate scenes from her favourite works

Published on Feb 18, 2022 02:32 PM IST 7 Photos

Homemaker S Devaki from Thiruvananthapuram found a cache of Barbie and Ken dolls abandoned by her grandchildren, during a spell of home renovation. She decided to use them to tell traditional Indian tales. She now recreates scenes from epics, poems, folk tales and classical works of art, in elaborate tableaus built around the dolls.(Photo courtesy: S Devaki)

Devaki’s latest creation draws on the Ramayana. It shows Sita pointing to a deer in the forests of Panchvati, asking Ram and Laxman to capture it for her as a pet. Since November, Devaki has been sharing her work on Instagram, @devaki_palazhi. She makes all the backdrops, props and costumes herself, and makes the jewellery from odds and ends.(Photo courtesy; S Devaki)

This tableau depicts Matsyagandhi and the sage Parashara in a boat, about to embark on the journey that will culminate in the birth of the sage Vyasa, who first compiled the Mahabharata. As more people come upon Devaki’s work, on local news platforms and online, they have begun sending her their unused dolls too. Devaki now has a collection of 21. (Photo courtesy: S Devki)


This tableau is based on a Malayalam poem by Kumaran Asan. It depicts Chandalabhikshuki, a lower-caste beggar, asking Upagupta, one of Buddha’s disciples, for water. It’s not easy to get it all just right, Devaki says. It can take up to two weeks to perfect a scene.(Photo courtesy: S Devaki)

Dressed in lace and tulle, this doll has been repurposed to depict Menaka, the most beautiful of the mythical apsaras. The first thing Devaki did when starting to create her tableaux, she says laughing, was to dye all the dolls’ hair black.(Photo courtesy: S Devaki)