Monday, July 23, 2012

Queens of Africa Dolls Followup


The link to this Queens of Africa video was shared in a comment to my original post regarding the Queens of Africa dolls. After watching the video, I felt somewhat disheartened because girls and their mothers in the Western African nation of Nigeria have not been very receptive to the dolls, even after Taofick Okoya, their creator, purposefully priced them competitively.

Because little girls and often women of color worldwide are bombarded with Western standards of beauty, many have not realized and are unable to embrace their own.  Will this ever change?  I don't know if I want to cry or scream:  Wake up!

Here's the video.



I pray for a global mindset change with reference to these skewed standards of beauty and for the success of the Queens of Africa.

dbg

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19 comments:

  1. I remember a famous white Christian had a program that gave out dolls to African children. The dolls of course were all white.
    I remember Oprah saying she was shocked when she went there and saw all of these little girls with these dolls.
    She bought a huge amount of black dolls and gave them out. I forget how many.
    There are others who are just as saddened about this as you. :-(

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    1. The Grandmommy: I remember viewing an Oprah show and seeing the little brown dolls she gave out to hundreds of little African girls who were very receptive of the dolls.

      Thank you for sharing the Jan Crouch link.

      dbg

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  2. http://search.aol.com/aol/search?s_it=topsearchbox.search&v_t=client97_searchbox&q=jan+crouch+dolls

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  3. This story is sad but consistent with my own experience in attempting to sell African-style dolls. In order to keep costs down, I used off brand dolls. Doll collectors like the clothes but reject the faces because they have been conditioned by decades of marketing to regard the homogenized Mattel faces as a sign of status/ quality.

    Another frustration I have is that when I do sell or give African style dolls to little girls, the mothers often make them keep the dolls as display items even though I designed them to withstand daily play. This is similar to Okoya's experience in trying to reach the local market by pricing the dolls affordably. He would probably do better creating high end, limited series dolls like the Fashion Royalty lines for adult collectors but then they wouldn't be in the hands of little girls and wouldn't become a day-to-day positive influence on their self-image. I think Okoya is on the right track with the comic books and animated series. I have wanted to do something similar for a long time but I have a day job and other demands on my time so it's a slow process.

    On a more hopeful note, I have found that girls do respond positively to the African-style dolls I make. I haven't made any money on them but I have received some delicious hugs from girls who were overjoyed to see a doll that "looks like me."

    After I saw the first video, I immediately sat down and attempted to make a wig like the threaded locks hairstyle featured in this video as well. Didn't get it right on the first try but I am inspired to keep trying. I hope Mr. Okoya will keep trying too. I especially wish he would market the dolls and comic books here.

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    1. Limbe Dolls: I hope you're successful in creating the threaded locks wig. I was immediately drawn to that style, even if the hair appeared synthetic. I would love to see the dolls and comic books marketed successfully here, too, because I know that dolls, books, and other tangibles can be used to instill a sense of self-worth in a child. The key is having parents and other authoritative figures who possess their own sense of self-worth that will automatically trickle down to their offspring.

      dbg

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    2. You would also find this interesting http://youtu.be/395ZHjacdxU

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  4. The problem doesn't lie in the dolls, the problem lies within our own community. Dark skinned little girls don't get the accolades that the lighter skinned little girls get. So why on earth would she want a doll that looks like her to remind her of what she potentially experiences in her daily life? She wants the doll that is going to get the praise. She wants the doll that other little girls are going to gravitate to. She wants the doll that may help her make friends. We should not be surprised by this. We try to improve self image of our little girls through dolls, when we should be teaching parents and other people in our community how to treat our children. It will NEVER happen with dolls. I still hear people direct negative comments towards our children for no reason. It infuriates me, and when I hear it, I call people out about it.

    Doll world for most has been about living out your fantasies. How many of us fantasize about having a different life than the one we have now. Those are the lives our dolls lead. Those are the lives those little girls' dolls lead. Until the world starts recognizing the beauty of all our little girls, this will continue to happen. It needs to first start with us.

    As for pricing, our community as a whole, doesn't like to buy the cheaper priced item. We want the status of having the item that was harder to get. I'm with limbe dolls, he would be better off making them exclusive. Heck you are trying to "improve my self image", but my doll doesn't even cost what the White doll cost. What is that saying to a little girl?

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    1. Vanessa: I'm not surprised by it but it sickens me that the phenomenon of self-hatred still exists to such an overwhelming degree in the mindsets of non-white people, young and old.

      I agree that self-love should be taught in the home, as I wrote in my comment to Limbe Dolls, but it is impossible for someone who does not love themself to teach it.

      True, doll world is about living out fantasies, but at some point reality has to set in that preferring white dolls is never going to make a brown-skinned little girl's skin white, ever!

      I must be in the minority with reference to buying economically. I enjoy and prefer quality, but I know when and where to spend my money. I don't buy labels, doing so only pads the pocket of the person who created the label. So creating higher end dolls for little girls will not solve the problem because it is not the higher cost these girls crave, it's the lighter complexion because they have been conditioned to believe that white is the epitome of beauty and everything good.

      dbg

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    2. Scars run deep. My whole life I was teased to tears regularly about my 'big lips'. Not by White people, but my Black people. Do I have high self esteem? Yes. Do I love myself? Yes Do I feel accomplished? Yes. Do I love Black dolls? Yes. But there is nothing anyone could do to make me want to have a doll with really big lips in my collection. Nothing to do with the doll, or self hatred. All about the scars. Now that 'big lips' are in style, I still feel pain from the past. Adults in our community still feel the pain of their past. How do we address that pain, so they can treat their children with respect and love? It seems to be human nature to want to be what you are not. Many of the light skinned Blacks that so many people rave over, hate themselves just as much, and they want to have darker skin at times. It happens with all races. This has been going on for centuries and will probably continue long after we are gone. It will end only when there is only one race and one color on this earth.

      That gentleman should market the dolls outside of his country so the people in his country would see how popular the dolls would become. They would probably want to buy the dolls after that.

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    3. Oh my! Your lips are not big! I'm sorry you were tormented and wounded by the torments.

      Many of us, if not all were teased as children by insensitive people who were probably also teased. It becomes a vicious cycle for people to tease, torment, or otherwise attempt to belittle others to draw negative away from themselves.

      I was teased often because of my height but even more often because I was rail thin. Twiggy, slim, snnnnnnn---aaaaa-ke with hisses, and other names were common, but I didn't allow it to scar me.

      Marketing the Queens of Africa dolls outside Nigeria may be something Okoya should strongly consider. Add in articulated bodies and he'd probably have a trio of winners here in the US.

      dbg

      BTW, I love dolls with lucious lips!

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    4. ...to drawn negative *attention away from themselves.

      dbg

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    5. This is yet another interview http://youtu.be/kYAvta32a-I

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    6. Thank you for sharing yet another interview. This one gives a closer look at the dolls. Some people had expressed concerns regarding their quality. It appears, as Mr. Okoya mentions in the video, the dolls are in fact, comparable to a basic Barbie with bendable legs and fully rooted heads of hair. The materials used for the clothing appear to be of high quality as well. I will post this video as a separate blog post.

      dbg

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  5. Hello from Spain: It is very difficult to change the traditions. Sure beauty for those girls relate to the white dolls. A pity! Society has to try to change that mentality. Keep in touch

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    1. You are so right, Marta. It is very difficult to change the mindset of people when they are bombarded with subliminal messages that they are not good enough or that something else is better, and it is a pity.

      dbg

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  6. If I recall correctly there was not a single black doll in my household as a kid. There were white baby dolls, a Mrs. Beasly, Raggedy Ann and Andy, a few white Barbies and one Cher doll that I buried in the yard. I wasn't into dolls so I don't know if my mother ever asked my sister's preferences or she just bought what she wanted.

    I do remember wishing I had long hair, but I've never wanted to be white or lighter skinned. Perhaps being anti social even as a child made me not so aware of others. If, as a child, I were asked to pick between a black and white doll, I would have probably picked the white one because it was white dolls in the commercials when I was growing up, not black ones.

    If you asked me that question today, I would pick the black one, simply because she was black. Is that any better? I'm not sure. Many times I wont get the white version of a Mattel playline doll even though I know I'm not going to use that unarticulated Nikki body anyway. I'll look at an "I Can Be" doll and think, "Where's the black one?"

    When black dolls go on sale cheaper than their white counterparts I know this is another blow to black dolls being produced. However, as a cheap consumer, my wallet benefits from it. I always feel a little icky about it, but I'll still glomp onto that sale.

    Okay, at this point I'm just rambling, so I'll just say thanks for posting something so thought provoking.

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    1. Muff - FYI, the Black "I Can Be" dolls are typically on line. I was surprised to see some new ones on the FAO Scwartz site today. I think we need to start asking these questions of our local retailers. I imagine they are the ones deciding not to carry the Black versions of some of these dolls.

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    2. You 're welcome, Muff. I am glad this post provoked thought.

      At the end of the day for adult doll lovers, facets of our childhood affect why we love dolls and why certain ones are preferred over others. As for me, I have a strong connection for dolls like me.

      dbg

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  7. Hello All
    From the Queens of Africa team we thank you all for your comments and suggestions.
    The creator Taofick okoya would be sent this link and we are sure he would be happy and encouraged by all your comments/suggestions. We at Queens of Africa are of the opinion that for Africans to be accepted and seen as equal to others, we need to change the way we feel about ourselves first. And we can only do so by working on ourselves and lending a helping hand to each other. This we hope to achieve with the use of the Queens of Africa Dolls. Our dolls are made from high quality materials as we want them to compete with any doll available anywhere in the World. Asides from the dolls and comics, we also have Queen of Africa Books (books 1-7) which are readily available and can be gotten on Amazon.com.- http://www.amazon.com/Queen-Idia-Queens-Africa-Book/dp/190821855X
    Our vision is to encourage the Nigerian/African girl child appreciate herself and see herself as who is is...A QUEEN! It has been rather expensive to get this far, and we might not recover our investment in the nearest future but the passion fuels us to keep going. We would be pleased to have stockist/sales outlet in the states, so all intrested parties can please contact us. We wil be happy to appoint just a few stockist who are willing to sell our dolls. We ship worldwide.
    The reception has been somewhat encouraging (especially from Black Doll Enthusiast). Once again we say a BIG THANK YOU!

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!