Kondapalli toys face modernisation and cheap imports
India’s master artisans of an ancient toy-making tradition compete with cheap imports and the lure of modern cities.
Kondapalli village, Andhra Pradesh, India – For 400 years, artisans in the Kondapalli village in Andhra Pradesh, have been making gleefully magical wooden toys.
The village, with its clay paths and a few brick houses, sits among small hills. A closer look, beyond the open doors, reveals tiny half-painted wooden torsos and limbs spread about inside.
Kondapalli has a heritage of toy making. The ancestors of these artisans, it is believed, migrated from Rajasthan and chose to settle in this region in the 16th century, establishing the art they had brought with them.
The descendants of these master artisans have carried their legacy forward. But, in recent years, the tradition has been threatened by the challenges of modernisation.
The number of artisans is dwindling as competition from imported cheaper Chinese-made toys and a new generation of youngsters that simply are not interested in their heirloom art form threaten their livelihood.
Development and urbanisation are also attracting this generation of toy-makers into the cities. They now aspire to pursue other professions, in medicine, engineering or jobs in the corporate world, rather than carry on the niche tradition of toy-making.