With the Sochi Olympic Games starting shortly, Russia's "gay propaganda" laws have been a concern for attendees and athletes alike. A Toronto resident has created a subversive product to show support and raise awareness: Russian nested dolls.
The matryoshka, or nested doll, is a traditional toy that is also a learning tool for children. In an interview with Digital Journal, Brahm Finkelstein explains why he thinks it was the perfect way to bring attention to the discrimination homosexuals face in Russia.
The head of the Russian Olympic city Sochi recently told reporters that there are no gay people in the city, justifying this "fact" by the customs and habits that exist in the vicinity of the Caucasus Mountains.
"In light of everything they're doing in Russia right now, what they're doing is against human principles," Finkelstein says. "No one should tell you how to live your life."
He explains that Russia's "gay propaganda" laws, enacted mid-last year, are in conflict with principle six of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, part of the Olympic Charter, which says:
Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.
To show his support for the LGBT community, he created Pride Dolls, a set of matryoshka coloured in various shades of the rainbow, with simple faces for each one. Each doll is hand carved and hand painted, with several layers of water-based nontoxic lacquer.
For the design, he contacted Italian artist Danilo Santino.
"I was looking online and i really liked his style. It's very clean. There's a lot of emotion,"Finkelstein says. "When you look at some of those faces you can feel the character, the personality is very strong, even though they're simple line drawings."
Brahm Finkelstein's "Pride Dolls"
The art and prototyping eventually became the Pride Dolls — the process took a total of four of five months.
The rainbow colouring of the largest doll in the set — and the varying colours of the smaller ones — are obvious symbols of the LGBT community, but Finkelstein says the faces themselves are simple for a reason.
"We wanted to keep them clean and minimalistic and let their expression and vibrancy shine through," he says. "We didn't want to typecast."
That being said, some have seen how the silver-haired doll bares some resemblance to President Vladimir Putin.
Proceeds from the doll will go to the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA), creator of the OutGames, which brings together LGBT and straight allies for inclusive sporting events.
Finkelstein says that he is looking to add other products to the line, and that a second order of the Pride Dolls could be coming up soon.
"It really goes down to that basic human character, that we're all indivduals," he says of the dolls. "There's no need for hate in this world. It's odd that humans are the only species that condemn people for their sexuality."