• english
  • spanish

A while ago there was quite a commotion after a new line of black Barbie dolls appeared on the market. The discussion was about whether they were “black enough” specially regarding their hair. Many complained that the doll’s hair was too straight, more like Caucasian hair than African American hair.
When I started with my challenge of making Ethiopian dolls, I had no idea of the history of black dolls in the western world, and much less in Africa.
So, I began to investigate and read books about dolls and doll making in general, and about African dolls in particular.
I came across a couple of good books, and in this post I’m going to talk about the first one, Black Dolls. Proud, Bold & Beautiful by Nayda Rondon.
Almost Queen of Woman by Christopher MaloneThe brief introduction in this books explores black dolls of the African diaspora and how the first ones were made of clay, twigs and hand carved wood. Later came porcelain, tin, fabric, and papier-mache dolls. Today the materials used have expanded to plastic, resin, vinyl, rubber, and polymer clay.
In America the first black dolls were made at home with rags from discarded clothes. However many early black dolls were made by white manufacturers who made fun of African features, propagating negative racist stereotypes as the “mammy”.
Many black dolls were also created in Europe, specially France and Germany.
The second part of the book is more interesting since it showcases different artists and their dolls. It’s amazing the variety of black dolls; most of them are “art” dolls, unique pieces that explore materials, characters and different representations of the African figure.
If you are interested in black dolls beyond the Barbie, this is a book for you. It will show you a complete different world of African dolls. The accuracy in which some of them represent the facial features, hair and character of African and African Americans is amazing.
The doll in the above picture was made by Christopher Malone
Below just two different doll artists and their creations; Patricia Coleman-Cobb and Denita Nyree Piltzer:

Jada by Patricia Coleman-Cobb

Fullani Doll by Denita Nyree Piltzer