Light Within

Making sense of Social Media

Chaudhry Norbert Pintsch

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Village Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka - a cluster of mud and brick houses - looks like any typical Pakistani village. The fact is that awareness, community work and use of appropriate technology has changed the village all together. Influence from Indus civilization from nearby Harappa and modern techniques brought by use of appropriate technology can be seen in the village together.

The toys and handicrafts made in the village are on display in international museums, prestigious galleries and showrooms in Pakistan and abroad. Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka (TGD) got an international fame when village project Thatta Kedona (meaning toy from Thatta) was selected as one of the 767 worldwide projects presented in the "Themepark" at global expo in Hannover (Germany) as an example of thinking of twenty first century. The toys and handicrafts from TGD show how culture goes beyond simple work of art and becomes collaboration among applied and natural sciences as well as other forces that affect our lives.

Thatta Kedona is a project, first of its kind, in rural area where handmade quality toys are crafted using all indigenous materials and traditional designs based on cultural and folklore themes. The workmanship of the dolls and toys has acclaimed international recognition through their participation in numerous international events, exhibitions, fairs and displays. These toys are the embodiment of dreams, hopes and most of all self-reliance of the hands, which breathe a part of their own soul into them.

How all this started? It was just a coincidence that in 1992, Professor Dr. Norbert Pintsch and Dr. Senta Siller, two German volunteers, visited TGD that is situated in backwater of Punjab some 80 kilometers from Lahore and 40 kilometers from Harappa. Both Germans were impressed by the natural and simple rural life in the village and decided to work for the rural community.

Chain of events started; community based Woman Art Centre with an aim to involve local womenfolk in productive, creative and healthy income generating activities opened in TGD in 1992. At the same time, Dr. Norbert Pintsch – an architect by profession - established Technology Transfer and Training Centre (TTTC) for men. These activities created awareness and built confidence among the village folks and they started making dolls and toys on self-help biases that are marketed all over the world and earnings come to the villagers who make them.

Thatta Kedona is a holistic project. Handicraft is in the spot on the stage but the project has a cultural philosophy. In addition to active use of appropriate technology, work in all other fields {education, agriculture, hydrogeology (drinking water project), public health, economy (marketing, distribution), tourism and communication} is in practice.

TTTC is concentrating on improved agricultural techniques and creating other suitable jobs for men right in the village – all carpenters, blacksmiths and tailors are profitably involved in production of toys. "The goals of the project are self-help activities at a grass roots levels, holistic village development, empowerment of women, income generation, literacy and vocational training, says Dr. Norbert Pintsch – an untiring worker who is fondly called Chaudhry Norbert in the village. The philosophy working behind this selfless work is "preservation of cultural heritage, reduction of migration to cities by generating additional income in the village as the future lies is in the rural areas," he adds.

Dolls from TGD in authentic attires of the specific tribes, communities and areas and thematic toys tempt tourists and diplomats. Foreigners collect these dolls as a souvenir of the time they spent in Pakistan. "During last ten years, TGD tin rickshaws have travelled to so many different countries. Tin “Tin rickshaws sit in the ambassadors' residences not only in Islamabad, but accompany them to the next and second next postings. I have met TGD dolls in the Japanese ambassador's home in Jakarta and also in the German embassy in Damascus," tells Dr. Norbert Pintsch with pride and pleasure. "Part of the artists goes where ever the toys go," says Razia a young artist from the village. Each toy has a small plate attached carrying the name of its maker.

Thatta Kedona, in addition to producing dolls, toys and other cultural handicrafts has been a centre of learning since its inception. Students from different universities have been visiting Thatta Ghulaka Dheroka for research, orientation and or for sightseeing. Last month (April 2010), three groups of students from two different universities in Lahore visited the village and “spent time relating to the traditional culture in its most original form,” said Saima Khan, a student from one of the universities.

Work of Dr. Norbert Pintsch and other volunteers that come here has not only moved the people of area but also raised a spacious and simple building for the Women Art Centre and TTTC. Now there are as many as 120 women from the age of 24 to 40 working in both the centers making dolls dressed in regional (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan, Balochi, Kashmiri and Kalash) embroider costumes, miniatures, hand knitted shawls, tin rickshaws and trucks and other toys and earning their living. They are making their own lives better and strengthening their families. "They (women) are moving towards true equality and independence" says a doll maker who has twelve year of schooling, is married in this village and working in the Centre.

Village TGD is changing in the process. The relative prosperity is visible. TGD was the first village in Punjab to have its own solar power house a decade ago and it is still working. Villagers are putting their children, particularly the girls in school. The Woman Art Centre is also playing a part in the well being of the villagers. The Centre has provided furniture and educational training aids to the two government primary schools (one for girls and the other for boys) in village and has also opened a well equipped basic health care centre. Books are distributed among students every year. Fruit and flower trees are given to residents for their court yards and they are encouraged to grow their own kitchen gardens. Best of all, an annual quality of life competition is held in the village when best mud houses and brick houses are selected in different categories. Owners of mud houses have lucrative incentives (thanks to SPARC) and they keep their homes in spanking condition and well maintained all the year. This alone has changed the look of the entire village. The Dolls Village has entered a new era with the start of the Internet Radio Project in the beginning of 2010. The idea of the Internet Radio originated from influx of visitors and their interests since early 90s. Now the local and focused information can be spread effectively with the Internet-Radio.

This seems to be one of the very convincing evidence of what a community can do together; lack of resources notwithstanding. No?

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, May 06, 2021,


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