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An exotic on guest BBC1's Repair Shop - My 1960s Bollywood Mannequin

Kirsten Ramsay, Dawinder Bansal and Jay Blades at The Repair Shop

As a huge fan of the BBC1 Television Programme The Repair Shop, I was over the moon to take part in such an uplifting and positive programme which fuses together all the things that I love. It's always exciting to see what vintage items or heirlooms people bring into the barn, while sharing their precious memories attached to it. Everything is handed over to a super talented team of makers/crafts specialists who breath new life into precious items with care and love. I get tearful during most episodes.

I found my way onto the repair shop and here's a bit about my vintage item and the brief story behind me now owning it.

I was born and raised in Wolverhampton and as a young girl, only one Indian shop existed in the heart of Wolverhampton town centre. It was called Harmi Travels. This shop, was like Aladdin's cave to me, because it was packed from floor to ceiling with colourful saris, loose material, pots and pans, haberdashery of all things shiny and sparkly, Bollywood music cassette tapes, cosmetic jewellery, rose scented incense and Indian soaps/creams which my mother was familiar with.

It was an enormous shop and the Indian couple who I call Uncle and Aunty Ji (they are not actually related to me - it's an Asian thing) still own and run the store together.

In 2017, when I walked through Wolverhampton I happen to notice that the two shops were now one much smaller shop with significantly less stock. What's happened I thought? Where's that beautiful Bollywood mannequin that used to be in the shop window? I hope they haven't thrown it away. I opened the door and entered the shop. It was still owned by Uncle and Aunty and then to my absolute delight, I turned around and spotted Basanti (her new name) who was squeezed into a corner of the small shop - she was being knocked around a bit.

I looked at Basanti and she had some battle scars. She's made of plaster and is very heavy and fragile. I could see she had a broken wrist, a chunk of plaster missing from the back of her head, holes in her ears where someone had tried to put earnings in. I knew that this mannequin was a rare find and I needed to rescue her from further damage or perhaps even being thrown in the skip - like many of these kind of mannequins were during the 1990s.

Apparently the mannequin was sent to Uncle and Aunty after they had placed a substantial sari order from Mumbai (then called Bombay) in the 1960s/1970s. She had arrived to their surprise along with the sari's and ever since then, she was part of the business fabric. Everyone always remarked on the beauty of this Bollywood mannequin who looked just like famous Bollywood actresses called Hema Malini or Asha Parekh.

I negotiated a small price for the mannequin and after acquiring her, I suddenly had no idea how I was going to transport her! At the time, I was just setting up a new art installation called Jambo Cinema, which is a re-creation of my parents 1980s Kenyan-Indian living room. Basanti made her debut appearance in the exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

My nephew and I, popped her onto a supermarket goods trolly and wheeled her, very carefully through the the city. Everyone was staring at us and perhaps thinking this was a strange piece of street theatre. She nearly toppled over once or twice on me. After the exhibit ended she was brought to my home and has been living in my kitchen and keeping the family company during dinner since 2017.

Dawinder, Basanti and Uncle who looks sad to be letting go of "my darling"

At first, she was a bit scary in in the kitchen - especially at night but now - she's a part of our family. Although she was damaged quite significantly in parts, I didn't know where or how to get her repaired. So when the opportunity arose to have her repaired by the loving professionals over at The Repair Shop - I jumped at the chance when they selected her.

They have done such a super job at repairing the broken wrist, head and ears while maintaining the integrity of her age.

Filming of this episode happened a while ago and I'm excited to be seeing how the repairs were done.

I'm so happy to have rescued her and I will continue to seek out vintage items of significance, especially when they tell a story about the heritage and social history of South Asian culture and communities in Britain. I might need to find some extra storage first though!

This mannequin and others will form part of my next art installation - those who are interested in my work, please keep in touch by subscribing to news.

A very BIG THANK YOU to Kirsten Ramsay, Jay Blades and all the team over at The Repair Shop!

Stay safe everybody!

Dawinder. x


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