Thereâ€™s something nostalgic about dolls. They remind people of happier times in their lives. And now, a new exhibition at Corp Executive Hotel Apartments in Al Barsha, Dubai, from 16th to 31st March, 2011, puts the spotlight on this forgotten craft.
On display at the hotel is a staggering collection of over 200 traditional dolls each belonging to a different country and sporting traditional costumes. The preview of the exhibition was held on March 16th and was accompanied by a fashion show of doll outfits designed by Francois Desroches.
It is the first time that such an exhibition has being organized in a hotel in the UAE. Aamir Pervez, General Manager, Corp Executive Hotel Apartments, said, â€œIt is a terrific selection of dolls and is a very unique experience for our guests. Aside from adults, we believe it is highly educative for kids and therefore we urge schools to encourage their students to visit the exhibition. All that kids know today is a Barbie but there is a whole history of doll craft which provides a fascinating glimpse of a countryâ€™s people and culture.â€
Included in the exhibits are all kinds of dolls – from miniatures to large pieces. Some dolls are one-offs while others are limited editions or production dolls. Dressed up with elaborate costumes and rich ornaments, some are evocative of the baroque and rococo styles while others mirror the folk culture.
Part of the exhibition is a collection available exclusively at Scarabee located at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi and Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. Colette Makar, the Managing Director of Scarabee said, â€œThese dolls were first designed by a French Artist Ms Christine Chaignot in 1986 and carry the most original expressions of the countryâ€™s artistic handicraft. The artisan shapes and decorates each doll’s head according to his inspiration, then selects the fabric to match the look. Thanks to their flexible bodies, the dolls can express all kinds of attitudes, even most unexpected. Far from being inert objects, they are truly living creatures, beaming with fantasy, cheerfulness and humour.â€
Said Hina Bakht, Vice President, MPJ â€“ Marketing Pro-junction, â€œItâ€™s a collection that runs the gamut â€“ from tribal to merchandise, from rag dolls to porcelain, from clay to bronze pieces. But whatâ€™s great is no two dolls are alike since most are hand-made works collected by different people, in different countries at different points of time.â€
Taking part in the exhibition are several collectors. The largest collection belongs to Livia Pingoy who has for 28 years been an avid collector of dolls and have amassed over 100 pieces from all over the world. A highly successful hotelier with a strong background in sales, Livia has been associated with some top brands in hospitality industry which gave her an opportunity to travel frequently. She recalls, â€œI took to collecting dolls in 1993 when I was working for the Metropolitan Beach Hotel and a colleague of mine brought me a traditional doll from Germany. Ever since I have been scavenging the streets and rummaging in souvenir shops in search of exotic dolls wherever I went.â€
No wonder today Livia has the most enduring collection ranging from the Spanish Matador to the Turkish folkloric doll to Romanian peasant figurine to Portuguese Nazareth doll. Together they tell a story about the forgotten craft. Ayesha Chen McKeever, Manager at Dubai International Art Centre said, â€œLiviaâ€™s vein of collecting is not about the accumulation of dolls of value, things that a conventional doll collector might look for. Instead it is about finding pathos in the lost, the overlooked and the ordinary.â€
Of course, there can be no better gift for Livia than a doll. Part of her collection is even a Barbie in a saree. She gushes, â€œBarbie is an icon. How could I resist having one?â€
Particularly interesting are the Bulgarian folk dolls. Teodora Varadinova who specially brought these dolls for the show all the way from Bulgaria, said, â€œThe month of March according to Bulgarian folk beliefs marks the beginning of spring. Therefore on March 1 and the days after people give to each other small wool dolls named Pigo and Penda called Martenitzi in Bulgarian.â€
In addition, Teodora is also showcasing Bai Kire and Grandfather with Bagpipes made by Maria Krasteva, a doll-maker from Bulgaria who captures real human expressions. Explained Teodora, â€œEach of Mariaâ€™s dolls has its own personality and name. One of my favourite characters is Grandma Pena, who likes to gossip a lot and has no time for house work. She is an annoying character but seen through Mariaâ€™s creation everybody likes Grandma Pena.â€
Mariaâ€™s characters have come to be loved for their peculiar habits and behavior. Teodora said, â€œMaria chooses people who are neglected by the society for one or another reason and represents them in a better light, so that people can perceive them in a positive way without judgementsâ€.
A highlight of the event was a live demonstration by Teodora who showed doll lovers the various steps that go into making Martenitzi.
Hannah Matthews is the youngest participant with an exquisite collection of some rare dolls seldom seen in this part of the world. She brings to the show Swedish, Irish and Nepali dolls among others.
Equally enchanting is the collection of Jyotsna Nagarkar who has some amazing creations from Egypt, India, Russia and France. She said, â€œDoll-making is one of the worldâ€™s oldest crafts. The material used for making dolls is very often linked to the era and level of development of the place and its people. Whereas in the ancient times dolls were mostly made of stone, wood, clay, metal, leather, rags, paper, porcelain; in modern days rubber and plastic have come to replace these.â€
No matter where it comes from, each doll in the exhibition is good enough to be a master piece. Ayesha said, â€œIt is a phenomenal show and a great opportunity for art lovers to see something different.â€
Further information from firstname.lastname@example.org or www.corp-albarsha.com, telephone 00971 4 3164040.