The Tsunamika Doll:

Auroville’s Symbol of Hope for Tsunami Survivors

Auroville, a community in South India aspiring towards human unity, was among the many communities hit by the December 26th, 2004, Indian Ocean Tsunami that was caused by an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. From out of the disaster and devastation emerged many projects, bringing community spirit back within Auroville and connecting Auroville to its neighbouring Tamil villages. One of the beautiful stories is one of a little doll named Tsunamika, shared by Kavitha Urvasie Selvaraj.

The Tsunamika project grew out of Auroville's Upasana design and garment unit, that felt moved to help alleviate the tragedy by creating a simple cloth doll that would create a livelihood for women from the affected coastal areas in the Auroville Bio-Region, and be carried around the world as a call for support and as a symbol of hope. Around 100 women have found their livelihood through the making of the handmade doll.
The Tsunamika doll has multiplied over the years, and about six million dolls have reached eighty nations worldwide, bringing overwhelming support and love to the victims of the 2004 natural disaster. Sometimes referred to as ‘Auroville’s globe-trotting doll’, Tsunamika symbolizes the gift economy, as no Tsunamika is sold: the little doll is a gift that has inspired donations and support during the communities post-trauma rehabilitation work.

Her story has been included in the Tamil Nadu State Board School curriculum. It has been translated into many languages such as Spanish, French, Danish, German, and Russian. The Tsunamika book has been recognized by UNESCO, and the government of India has given it the prestigious "Award of Excellence to Contribution to Business and Society".

Tsunamika has recently celebrated her 10th birthday in Auroville, which was held on the 10th January 2015, including a series of exciting events attended by over 2500 participants. The highlight of the event was the news that Tsunamika was taking on a new Coastal Yatra - a new cause (‘Yatra’ meaning ‘a procession or pilgrimage'). Her Coastal Yatra aspires to rebuild the deep connection we have with our environment and fellow human beings by announcing a coastal awareness program.

Her story and impact was celebrated from the 8th – 10th January, as a giant model Tsunamika was paraded through the streets of 4 villages along the coast and visited the regional schools where she was celebrated through drama and laughter. Tsunamika and her story was present at Bharat Nivas, Auroville’s Indian Pavilion, where people gathered to celebrate with live performances, food stalls, craft stalls, an exhibition and an evening theatre titled, ‘Tsunamika-Daughter of the Ocean.’

The event included many talented contributors, such as the Komali MeDi Clown Academy for health and laugher, Sankalpa's Art Journeys creative inputs, ISIS teatteri dramatic group from Finland, PondyCAN, and the National Coastal Protection Campaign, who welcomed Tsunamika to her new cause. The National Institute of Fashion Technology of New Delhi (NIFT) also included the little doll’s story as a part of Design for Social Responsibility.

Tsunamika has stood as a medium of education for post-disaster counselling, and women’s empowerment through livelihood generation, all while embodying the gift economy.
Now, Tsunamika extends to stand for coastal awareness, highlighting the issues of environmental degradation that are devastating our Auroville coastal communities and the world at large. Tsunamika is a beautiful symbol of hope, stitched by the hands of mothers who have lost their children, bringing new life and new connections within and between communities.
She has even reached out to touch hearts and extend her support in following disasters, such as the Tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. We look forward to supporting Tsunamika in spreading awareness and calling for positive change regarding this growing phenomenon of coastal erosion, marine pollution and the greatest challenge of them all, climate change.

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