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Story of tribal life through dolls
- Belgian artiste’s show highlights insurgency, riots

Oct. 30: For Francoise Bosteels, dolls mean more than the stuff child’s play is made of.

The Belgian artiste has devoted over a quarter of a century of her life to highlight various truths and problems of life and society through her dolls. She has now turned her attention to various issues in the Northeast, starting her mission with an exhibition of dolls, Dolls Speak, which was inaugurated in the city today.

The North East Social Communications, an NGO, has organised the three-day exhibition at Christ Church Hall in Nehru Park. Allen Brooks, convenor of the organisation, said 150 dolls would be on display at the exhibition.

“Bosteels’ dolls will also highlight the Chipko movement, Godhra riots, child labour, sexual exploitation of women and various problems of tribal society,” Brooks said.

Through her creations, Bosteels will endeavour to bring peace to the region.

The artiste, who has held several exhibitions across India and abroad including the Philippines, Bolivia, Sri Lanka and her homeland, Belgium to her credit, said she was aware of the myriad problems that the region is facing.

“The very purpose of coming down to Guwahati for an exhibition is to highlight problems like insurgency, underdevelopment and the nuances of tribal society and the rich bio-diversity of the Northeast at the national and international level. I will visit each and every state of the region. I will stress the use of doll making to highlight the sensitive issues of the region,” Bosteels said.

Bosteels said her experience in the city was a memorable one, adding that she found the citizens to be peace loving and genuine.

“I had heard a lot of good things about the people of the other northeastern states. They are truly warm-hearted people, though sometimes misguided. The need of the hour is to promote the message of peace and I will do it through my dolls,” she said.

Bosteels, born at Aalst in Belgium in 1942, came to India more than 33 years ago and lives in Bangalore at present.

Trained as a nurse, she worked in social and health education programmes and for leprosy prevention and care in villages of south Tamil Nadu. Travelling to interior and remote villages in Tamil Nadu, Bosteels was exposed to the hardship of the people. Bosteels has also authored several books including The Dolls Speak and Through the Needle’s Eye.

“It was after I witnessed the hardship people went through that I decided to start making dolls that would reflect their problems. They are not just models for children to play with. These dolls guide us towards a deeper awareness of the other side of India, that is excluded, oppressed and despised,” she said.

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