Social reformer, revivalist and founder of the Association for Voluntary Action and Services (AVAS) and Development of Weavers and Rural Artisans in Kalamkari Art (DWARAKA), Anita Reddy is known for work towards making kalamkari into an economically viable art form.
Reddy was born in Chennai and studied at the Rishi Valley School, Chittoor, and the Women’s Christian College, Chennai. She began working in the social sector in the 1970s, and in 1980, founded AVAS to improve the physical, social and economical conditions of urban slum dwellers, as well as rehabilitate, integrate and empower slum communities. Reddy also set up the Dwarakanath Reddy Institutes for Knowledge (DRIK) in 2011 to promote music, theatre, art, craft, sports and Gandhian studies among the less privileged sections of the society to assist with cultural empowerment, skill development and economic stability.
Following a visit from a kalamkari artisan, Reddy founded DWARAKA in 1999 with the aim of empowering the lives of the hand-painted kalamkari artisans of Srikalahasti, Chittoor, and establishing kalamkari as a means of a sustainable livelihood. The organisation has also been instrumental in empowering women artisans of kalamkari to participate in the processes involved in the production of the fabric, unlike earlier, when they handled only the final colouring. She has also established stores in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, making kalamkari commercially available to a wider group of people.
Reddy received the Mahila Sadhaki Award of the Guild of Women Achievers in 1997 and the Padma Shri in 2011 for her contributions as a social worker.
At the time of writing, Reddy lives and works in Bengaluru.
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