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'Siberia is so big, it’s almost more an idea than a place'

Dolls showcasing the mysterious characters from ancient Buryatian legends

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29 December 2015


'Dashi draws for us the sketches, a simple black and white pencil sketch, and the rest was up to us.' Picture: Ilya Tatarnikov

The 11 dolls represent the figures of ancient legends of the Buryatian people in Siberia, a Buddhist population. All were created by the family of prominent sculptor Dashi Namdakov, based on his sketches.

The parents and seven of his brothers and sisters draw, and many linked their lives with arts and crafts. All of them work in the family workshop in Ulan-Ude, which is located on the second floor of the parent's house.

Dashi's eldest sister Dorzhima Namdakova said: 'All our family is working on the dolls. Dashi draws for us the sketches, a simple black and white pencil sketch, and the rest was up to us, which colours to choose.

Namdakov's dolls

Namdakov's dolls

Namdakov's dolls

Namdakov's dolls

The 11 dolls represent the figures of ancient legends of the Buryats. Pictures: Ilya Tatarnikov

'Looking at the sketch, the mind thinks whether to do this or that: whether to use leather... or something else, which colours to choose - pastel or bright. I do not know from where these ideas came.

'Our elder brother is a jeweller, making frames and bases, my sister and I sew costumes, doing makeup and wigs. Our parents always help. At least 7 people worked on each doll.'

Dashi said at the opening: 'I am happy that I can now present this exhibition. This is very delicate, difficult work, but the masters made it all filigreed. If it was leather, they cleaned it up to the thickness of the paper. And there are such patterns of fabric, beaded decorations, hair to hair on the heads - I could not even draw it in such way.'

Dorzhima Namdakova

Namdakov's dolls

Namdakov's dolls

Namdakov's dolls

Dashi's eldest sister Dorzhima Namdakova: 'At least 7 people worked on each doll.' Pictures: Ilya Tatarnikov

Their dolls are in huge demand and have travelled the world after being bought, he said. Dollmaking is 'the life of my family. It is such a pleasure for them. 'And all is around our father and mother, all the children are around and they are happy with this.'

No two dolls are the same. Dashi said: 'Generally speaking it is a sculpture, but unlike, for example, bronze sculptures, which I do, here used a million different techniques. Everything is made by hand, each pattern is unique.'

The first doll was made in 2005 and was bought by rock musician Andrey Makarevich. 

'Generally speaking it is a sculpture, but unlike, for example, bronze sculptures, here used a million different techniques. Pictures: Ilya Tatarnikov



Comments (7)

Wonderful dolls, they are ethereal works of art, sculptures indeed. I especially liked the attention to detail in the faces and the clothing that they wear.
Nancy D., Bradenton, USA
17/10/2021 12:19
7/6/2017: I love dolls, especially ones that are delicate, petite, artistic, and unique; I love looking at the various materials, style, stature, and the gentle facial expressions;
rosalie carey demartino, salem, oregon, usa;
06/07/2017 14:42
Wow, how hauntingly beautiful!! I wish I could buy them. I am pretty well read, but I did not know there was a historical Buddhist community in Russia. Not surprsing, I suppose, with Mongolia right next door.

As a Hindu, I am happy to know Buddhism is thriving here. If only Afghanistan went back to their Buddhist roots, maybe there would be a bit more peace in this world.

What a nice website!! I always thought of Siberia as a horrifyingly cold, desolate ,lifeless place where only the brave nomads live, but now I am glad to discover more.
Manjee, Singapore
23/09/2016 14:58
I love these dolls, what works of art! Your newspaper is wonderful. Thanks, Timo
Timo, California, USA
03/01/2016 04:55
These doll makers are all living artists! More power to them!.
E. Espinosa, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
31/12/2015 17:03
while it says a picture is worth more than 1000 words, in this case a few words would be nice indeed.
Benedikt, Moscow,Russia
30/12/2015 22:53
Amazing craftsmanship, but somewhat "haunting" without knowing who each of the characters are from Buryation tales / mythos. I would like to know more about who, from legend, each doll represented, and what decisions were made by the artists on the design, as a result. After seeing several of the dolls I am very intrigued to learn more about the legends, but have little information to initiated any search.

All in all, thank you, Siberian Times, for posting informative, interesting and humanistic news articles. I, for one, am tired of being assaulted by the grandiose marketing of violence and mayhem published by conventional mainstream press channels who would rather cultivate fear than holistically report news from all facets of life.

I'll keep reading.
Michael, Detroit, MI - USA
29/12/2015 19:39

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