Thursday, July 12, 2012

African Wrap Dolls ~ The Best Kept Secret

History:  African Wrap dolls were often made by slaves using all kinds of scrap fabrics and natural materials.  The single item that must be included that identifies the type of doll is a mirror or reflective material.  The superstition behind the mirror is that it is believed if evil saw itself it would run away.  Therefore, the dolls were created to provide protection for the family.  The most enjoyable process is finding objects to use to embellish your doll.  These unique items begin the stories for your doll. (Text from African wrap doll instructions provided by Debra Britt, fellow black-doll enthusiast.)

In approximately 2004, Debra Britt sent me an African wrap doll kit that included instructions, materials, as well as a hot glue gun for making an African Wrap Doll.  The kit also contained a completed African wrap doll to use as a guide for making my own. My completed African wrap doll and the one I used as a guide for making it are shown below. 

African wrap dolls made from found objects

The above picture is from page 355 of my book, Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion (2008).

Years after making the African wrap doll, I re-read the history on the instruction sheet and realized I omitted the required reflective material from its exterior.  I will add that soon as no evil is wanted here. The sample doll has a decorated CD on the front of its body which serves as its reflector of evil.

Debra Britt and her sister, Felicia Walker, along with other movers and shakers of the Doll E. Daze Project, "began to exhibit more than 4,000 dolls of color throughout Massachusetts' libraries and schools. Their vision was to celebrate black history through the eyes of a doll collector [and] promote [cultural] diversity via understanding and doll making..."  As a result, "library patrons, children, seniors and families have created approximately 17,000 African wrap dolls. The dolls are created exclusively with recycled materials. In response, to this demand, the need to find a permanent home for the Doll E. Daze Project and Museum became evident."  (, October 2007)


By its founders, it has been referred to as the "best kept secret" and is now a dream come true for the Mansfield, Massachusetts sisters, mentioned above.  The sisters will share their now combined total of 5000 black dolls at The National Black Doll Museum.  The kick-off was held July 10, 2012.  (Congratulations DB et al.)

About the National Black Doll Museum
The museum has eight permanent galleries and one rotating gallery.
The hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.  
Their website is currently under development.

The museum is located at:
288 N. Main Street
Mansfield, MA 02048
Phone:  (774) 284-4729

$13.00 (Adult)
$6.00  (Children) 

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  1. Hello from Spain: Thanks for reporting on the African Doll Museum. I did not know existed. I'll look at the photos. The information in this post is very interesting. You do a great job. Keep in touch

  2. Thanks for the history lesson. On top of that, I didn't know there was a National Black Doll Museum in MA. Now I have a reason to visit.

  3. Ladies - I am glad this post was of interest to you. I should take better pictures of the African wrap dolls because the the one I made seems to fade into the black background. Her headwrap is black and it may be difficult to see it. After I add reflective items to her exterior, maybe I'll share more pictures.

    Wishing Debbie Britt and her sisters (Felicia Walker) and the third sister whose name I do not know, much success on making their dream of a black doll museum a reality.


  4. Amazing!!
    This remind us the importance of the African Mystical Symbols.
    And The Power Of The ORIXÁS!!
    Great Post!
    Congratz Again Debbie!!

  5. This post was amazing! Thanks so much for the history lesson :) I too must make the time to visit the National Black Doll Museum. Thanks for this post!

  6. Ooh, thanks for sharing with us.


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