|Mom Du Jos doll by I. Roberta Bell and book of the same name by Erick Berry|
What came first, the doll or the book? For me, the doll came first. Mom Du Jos, the doll, was an eBay win in November of this year. I maintain an active eBay saved search to be notified of new listings of dolls by artist I. Roberta Bell, who was the first African American member of the National Institute of American Doll Artists having been inducted during the 1970s. I am currently researching her work.
When I saw Mom Du Jos on eBay, I named and claimed him, as I do for dolls I feel are must-haves. From the seller's description, I learned this 13-inch doll with baked clay head and hands and brown cloth body was fashioned after the character in the book of the same name by Erick Berry, copyright 1931. An immediate search for a copy of this book ensued. After locating a few copies, I forwarded two buy links to my son in an email with the subject line: Christmas I Want.
|The inside cover of the book shows girls admiring the doll after his last adventure. The title page shows how the doll's face is illustrated and the turban he wore throughout the book.|
As illustrated, the book was indeed one of my Christmas presents from my son.
|Doll's handwritten hang tag written on a folded index card is attached to his wrist with a white pipe cleaner.|
The doll's hang tag, dated October 3, 1980, notes in the artist's handwriting that he is an exclusive original fashioned after the character in the book. The doll and original fez were made by Bell. The costume of riga (kimono-type top) and wando (trousers) were fashioned after those worn by the book's character by Falcon Garth.
|The scars on Mom Du's cheeks are symbols of beauty.|
Bell also gave Mom Du the facial scarification, the book describes, worn by Haussas, a people of northern Nigeria and southern Niger. Upon arrival to me, and as indicated in the seller's description, Mom Du was missing his fez. I knew, even before his arrival, that I could remedy that.
The book also describes a white turban worn by the doll throughout numerous unwanted and adventurous relocations he encounters at the hands of various African animals and separately by two African girls who both loved him dearly. I have replaced the red fez the book describes with a red knit cap, over which a gauze turban has been fashioned to replicate the cheesecloth turban described in the book.
|The red stocking cap is a temporary replacement for the red fez the book describes.|
|The gauze white turban worn now will eventually be replaced by one made of cheesecloth.|
In the book, the doll, whose full name is Moham Adu Jos, was a Louisiana transplant to Africa, possibly by way of travel with his original owner, a doll maker, who was referred to throughout the book as The Lady in the White Sun Helmet. After his separation from her and the series of relocations that followed, Mom Du eventually returns to the loving hands of the Lady in the White Sun Hat. One of the little African girls, in whose hands he landed prior to his return, becomes the owner's doll-making assistant.
My first blog post about I. Roberta Bell, from 2009, recently updated, can be read here.