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Artisan Artforms: Prosperity Totas


Bell totas, or prosperity hens as they are also known, are decorative hangings used by families in India to garner luck and prosperity. The totas consist of a string of stuffed or carved animal designs strung together with beads and bells to make a beautiful piece of decor. Tradition has it that when a family hangs these totas in their doorway or window, they bring about good luck and auspiciousness to the household and the family members. 

Today, artisans in the village of Chota Narena, India, use a school as their gathering place to make these decorations. After the school day is over and their families are fed, wives, sisters, daughters and grandmothers of the village convene to create the totas for export. They group receives raw materials in advance, forgoing having to take out loans to buy the materials. Older members teach the younger members how to create the totas and each woman completes a different segment of tota construction like an assembly line. They also use this time to catch up with each other, talking about gossip of the village and strategies for business!

Once the supply is finished, products are sent to the partner non-profit who pays them for the completed order. The totas are packaged and tagged and sent to counties around the world. Artisans are paid in full once the completed products are sent to the distributors!

These women directly benefit from the sale of the totas. Their income supplements their husbands' income, and together they are able to pay for their children's schooling and higher education, materials, food, and home supplies. Purchasing these totas also allows this traditional art form to thrive and continue for generations!