As promised, in The Doll Griot post, Paulette Richards has written a guest post for the readers of this blog.
by Paulette Richards
If a little Senegalese girl is lucky enough to own a doll, it will most likely be white. Consequently girls often name their dolls “Bébé Toubab.” Since toubab means “foreigner,” it applies to black Americans like me as well as to Europeans and Asians but outside of the display dolls made for the tourist trade, there are almost no dolls that look like people of African descent available here in Senegal. The black dolls that I brought from the States therefore made a big hit when I used them to show people how to make digital “books” at the International Book Fair in Dakar last December.
|Digital book making at the International Book Fair in Dakar|
Madame Fabinta Lo observed one of my workshops and was especially interested in my dolls.
|Madame Fabinta Lo|
She subsequently met with me in Saint Louis to show me some of the dolls she creates. Originally a Spanish professor, Mme. Lo began working with children of Senegalese immigrants when she moved to Italy in 1999. Recognizing that these children needed more positive reinforcement of their identity, she set out to make dolls that would represent traditional aspects of Senegalese culture and history.
Always an elegant dresser, Madame Lo had never learned to sew because men do the tailoring and dressmaking in Senegal. Making dolls was therefore a challenge but she rose to the occasion by asking a neighbor for tips and studying one of the dolls typically sold to tourists.
Before long she was modifying the design to represent a broader range of characters. Madame Lo named her doll-making enterprise Keur Domu Sanar which literally means “the house of cloth children in Wolof.” Here then is a selection of her dolls representing the past, present, and future of Senegal:
Fatou Ndiaye is dressed in the style that was typical in the 1950s.
Her parasol protects her from the sun but also adds an elegant accent to her ensemble.
The layers of underskirts show that she is a person of means.
She has dressed her hair in the Ngouka style and decorated it with gold jewels that also show her wealth.
Fashionable women of this period tattooed their lips very dark to make their teeth seem more brilliantly white in contrast.
Senegalese women like Fatou Ndiaye have always used folktales to teach their children and grandchildren moral values. Mme. Lo has written a book of folktales and hopes to use her dolls to illustrate future stories.
Aminata Diop represents a modern-day “driyanquée.”
The driynquées used dramatic eye make-up and other feminine wiles to drive American G.I.s (Yankees) to distraction during WWII:
As an educated professional, Aminata does not need a man to pay her bills but she still enjoys wearing seductive lingerie such as this embroidered underskirt
and a string of binbin beads around her waist.
Her beaded purse
and matching sandals
add just the right sparkle and dash while Aminata herself rounds out the ensemble with the kind of curves Senegalese people most admire.
Mme. Lo topped it all off with a handsome, handcrafted hat.
Issa Pouye is from the Peul ethnic group. The Peul are traditionally nomadic herders, but Issa has left his rural village to attend school in the city. He lives with his uncle and shares a room with five cousins.
Although life in such cramped quarters is often difficult, Issa is determined to become an agronomist so he can go home and help his family.
Mme. Lo hopes to make her creations available in an Etsy Store soon. For more news about her store you can follow her at:
Thank you, Paulette, for sharing Madame Fabinta Lo's dolls with us. I enjoyed learning about them and wish her much success with doll-making and sales.
Until Paulette returns to the States and resumes her Limbe Dolls blog, where the serious business of doll play is so eloquently shared, she plans to document her sojourn in Senegal in her newly created blog, Sipping from the Source.
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