Friday, June 16, 2017

Mapalo: Blessings from Zambia

Mapalo, an 18-inch doll by M'simbi, arrived recently from Zambia in her beautifully designed box.

After becoming aware of the new M'simbi line of five Naturally Beautiful dolls, Mapalo was selected to emigrate from Zambia to America and where she has established a permanent residence.  I am as impressed with the packaging as I am with the doll.  Let's explore the box first:

The very top of Mapalo's box reads:  Naturally Beautiful
Dream, Believe, Achieve, Inspire
The lower box front has the same aspirations as well as the company's name, M'simbi, written in letters of African-design coloring.  This area of the box also includes an image of a kneeling African girl, who appears to be blowing a wish.

Both left and right side box panels contain an African design.  On the bottom of one panel is a different drawing of the same beautiful African girl that kneels on the box front.  
About Mapalo

Mapalo, which means blessings, is an 18-inch, all-vinyl, very well-constructed doll, made for children ages 4+.  (I am in the plus bracket.)  The vinyl is quite sturdy, which enables her to stand without the assistance of  a doll stand.  She wears a very colorful dress, the bodice of which is yellow with center pocket of black and white African design.  The dress skirt is a brightly colored print of blue, yellow, fuchsia, and black. She arrived with bare feet.

Mapalo has two hang tags.  The front of one tag reads:  Thank you for choosing M'simbi.  The company's contact information is on the back of the "Thank you" tag.  The other tag contains Mapalo's affirmation which reads:  I am not trying to fit in because I was born to stand out.  Below that is the company's tagline for girls:  Naturally Beautiful/Dream, Believe, Achieve, Inspire.

Her rooted auburn hair is beau-ti-ful!
Not a white doll colored brown, Mapalo has authentic African facial features along with thick and beautiful, natural-textured auburn hair that can be styled in a variety of ways just by using your hands and fingers -- no combs required.  Her brown eyes are stationary with upper eyelashes.

I love this hair... the texture is quite similar to mine when no products are applied to it.

In addition to her colorful dress, which has been removed in the above photo to illustrate her all-vinyl sturdy construct, Mapalo wears a pair of removable undies.

In bold black letters, the M'simbi Naturally Beautiful logo appears in the center of Mapalo's back.

Each earlobe has a preplaced area where an adult can complete the ear piercing, if desired. (Keep reading to see what I used to do this.)

Size Comparison With Other 18-inch Dolls
Two of my 18-inch dolls volunteered to compare their body sizes with Mapalo's.  The first body comparison was done with Honey by Curly Girls United.

After removing their clothing, Mapalo's hair was pulled up and held with a rubber band to create an Afro puff ponytail.  As illustrated above, Honey has thinner arms and legs than Mapalo.  Honey's mid body is cloth where Mapalo is all vinyl. Honey's head and body are more proportional.  Little girls probably won't notice Mapalo's head/body size variance.  

American Girl Addy and Mapalo's arms and legs are about the same circumference but shaped differently.  Their head and body proportions differ as well.  Addy's body is all cloth, which limits her to wearing clothes with high necklines.  Mapalo does not have that dressing limitation.  

Next, Addy and Mapalo compared their feet.

Addy's foot (on the left) has a smooth plantar surface.  The bottom of Mapalo's feet have ridges and grooves like real people.  Addy's foot is slightly wider than Mapalo's.  Because of their similar foot size, Mapalo will be able to wear most shoes made for American Girl and other 18-inch dolls.

What other clothes can she wear?
As illustrated here, Mapalo can comfortably wear Addy's Christmas dress.  A pair of black shoes designed to fit 18-inch dolls, worn without socks, are slightly lose on her feet.  They fit Addy's foot perfectly.  With socks, the fit will be much better on Mapalo.

Ear Piercing
Before seeing the other clothing she tried on, Mapalo's ear piercing is illustrated next.

Using a push pin, the earlobe was completely pierced.  A little force had to be applied because the vinyl is quite firm.

A gold tone, straight-post hoop was inserted into each newly pierced earlobe.

Honey, the Curly Girl's United doll, allowed Mapalo to try on American Girl Julie's casual '70's-inspired fashion that she had been wearing.  It fits Mapalo well as do the boots.

A little hair play took place next.  I created this faux hawk by pulling the lower portion of Mapalo's Afro puff ponytail out of the rubber band, leaving only the top portion loosely banded.  Next, finger fluffing shaped the ends.  I think Mapalo welcomed this change, but it was short lived.

Before returning the American Girl fashion and boots to Honey, the rubber band was removed from Mapalo's hair to return it to the naturally beautiful loose way it was worn upon arrival.

Here, Mapalo wears a "What a Doll" tagged dress, which is made for 18-inch dolls.  The fit is nice on her. She wears this dress with a pair of black patent-leather flats that were purchased in the 18-inch doll clothing section at Michael's several years ago.  Without socks, the fit is snug, but a thin pair of socks should not compromise the shoe fit.

Mapalo enjoyed trying on different clothes, but she prefers wearing her original dress.  She decided to keep her feet covered with her new black shoes, however.


At only a third the cost of an American Girl doll ($34 plus shipping*), M'simbi dolls are an excellent buy for children or for the adult collector of 18-inch dolls.  They are well made, have ethnically correct facial features, and beautiful natural-textured hair that is closely rooted.  The dolls' accompanying empowering messages of self-love and encouragement are welcome features. *Shipping to America is $29 using EMS, which usually takes 7-10 days.

About M'simbi Dolls
To learn more about the complete doll line, where to purchase, and other details, navigate here to Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black and read my recent interview with the founder of M'simbi.

Follow my sister blog Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black
Check out my eBay listings here.



  1. Wow, great article and proud to see the msimbi dolls crossing borders.

  2. Very beautiful doll. Wish there was an American distributor to buyer from. Hate that 29.99 shipping fee.

    1. There may be an American distributor soon. Will keep you updated.


  3. Mapalo is gorgeous! Love the 3/4-angle photo of her face showing the pushpin piercing her ear -- it really shows off her cutie-pie cheeks and her beautiful eyes.

    1. She is a beautiful doll with lots of character.


  4. She's beautiful. I'm also impressed with the price even with shipping. It's a good thing these 18" dolls can share clothes and shoes.
    Thanks for telling us about your new doll:-)

    1. I agree, Maricha, even with shipping, I consider this doll an exceptional buy. I appreciate the durability, the authenticity, the cultural awareness teachings, and as you mentioned, the ability to wear clothing and shoes made for other 18-inch dolls. Compare this to paying retail for an AG doll (that has a cloth body), a person can pay around $130 with shipping versus around $63 for a M'simbi doll. It's a no brainer to me.


Your comments are appreciated. To eliminate spam comments, all comments are being moderated. Thank you!