Having lived in Bali for the last ten years, I think I am reasonably familiar with the culture, heritage and social conditions of this remarkable place. However, a trip to a doll shop changed my perception as I realised how little I knew about my adopted home.
It was a warm summer day when I found myself roaming around on the roads of Seminyak. This area, as you may know, is the shopping and fashionable hub of Bali. Looking at all the shops and their fashionable wares, I have always felt that there had to be some truth behind the popular saying, “Those who hate shopping, don’t know how to shop”. As for me, I was in search of something to gift my neighbour’s teenage daughter whose birthday was coming up.
My search led me to Seminyak. I reasoned if there is something that a teenager will appreciate as a gift it has to be available in this place. As I continued my search, I came across this cute little shop called The House of Mua Mua. Now, I know, teenagers will not be playing with dolls but I was curious about the collection and stepped inside.
The dolls, I surmised, were made by hand. As I gave a cursory glance over the eclectic collection, I came across a familiar face. The doll’s face looked remarkably similar to Lady Gaga, a popstar I had often heard of from teenagers. My curiosity was piqued and I had to know more! I went over to the person in charge and asked for an explanation.
In the year of 2006, Ludovica Virga, an Italian, was vacationing in the Puta Beach of Bali. An old woman came up to her and offered a crochet dress, a traditional item often made by Ludovica loved it and decided to create a crochet doll. At a chance meeting with Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic fashion designer, Ludovica managed to gift him a mua mua doll that resembled him. There was no looking back. Slowly but surely, mua mua dolls became popular. However, for Ludovica Virga, it was not popularity that she wanted. Instead, she wanted to help the people of Bali.
Each of these mua mua dolls is exclusively made in Bali by women from rural regions. I didn’t even know this! I knew life was difficult in the rural areas of Bali. However, I had not yet heard of this incredible venture undertaken by a foreigner, a foreigner just like me! These dolls give the women an opportunity to do something useful for their family. Moreover, I came to know that a percentage from each sale is donated to a school in Sumbawa for supporting the education of the women there.
I decided that even if I could not develop such an incredible initiative for the people, the very least I could do was support Ludovica’s initiative. Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day. I took a bunch of these mua mua dolls, including a number of them that resembled Lady Gaga. Suffice to say, my gifts were loved by the girl. Her smile, I decided, reflected the smiles of all those women whose lives these dolls helped to improve.