Nesting, or matryoshka, dolls first appeared in the late 19th century and have become a symbol of national folk art and design for Russia. Traditionally they’re designed to follow a particular theme like religious holidays, Russian leaders and national symbols like, uh, the Beatles, Star Trek and the Obama family.
Now, agency Mother London is using its annual holiday project to take this traditional art form and promote LGBT rights in Russia, where homosexuality has been classified as a mental illness since 1999 and the government recently passed an anti-gay propaganda law. It’s created a set of dolls under the theme of British gay icon, including–from biggest to smallest–Elton John, Stephen Fry, George Michael, Graham Norton, and Tom Daley.
Fry tweeted, “Oh look, I fit snugly inside Elton John and George Michael fits snugly into me…”
Over the holidays, the agency will send a set of the dolls to both the Kremlin and the Russian Consulate in London. The dolls were designed by Stanley Chow and crafted by Paul Baker at 3D Studios. Seven sets are being auctioned off online between December 13th and 22nd in support of The Kaleidoscope Trust, a charity working to uphold LGBT rights around the world. The first set is signed by Sir Elton himself.
Mother creative Paddy Fraser says using an internationally recognized symbol of Russia is the perfect way to subvert the country’s views and policy on LGBT rights in Russia. “The decision on who to choose was hard,” says Fraser. “We finally decided to start with a British set and only gay men, rather than make it international and mixed. The ambition is to widen it later on and have a lesbian set, and a Winter Olympics athlete set.”
Once they decided to start with a British set, the candidates pretty much chose themselves. “Gay men the nation loves who are out and proud, it’s got to be Elton, George, Stephen and Graham,” says Fraser. “And of course finally, Tom Daley. Who was obviously quite a late entry. We thought we should celebrate a young gay man (and sportsman) coming out in such a proud and public way. Unfortunately Gok Wan lost his place to Tom!”