During the past few years, people of color all over the world have started challenging their absence in a positive light in the media, entertainment, books and toys. Black people, and Africans more specifically, feel invisible or highly under represented. The lack of visibility has severe effects on image, self esteem and success.
Experts say that self confidence starts at an early age. The images, words and overall culture we expose young minds to have a long term influence on the trajectory of their lives. Who best than people of color themselves to produce and create articles that celebrate them and put them in the best light?
Several Africans, men and women, are active in the business of creating dolls or barbies that African girls can identify with through different skin tones, body shapes, hair texture or different outfits representative of various cultures. These dolls are mostly assembled in China, produced in low quantities and generally sold locally.
So far, five brands are emerging in both francophone and anglophone Africa:
Queens of Africa Dolls (Nigeria): The dolls and materials are designed, through fun and engaging materials, to subconsciously promote African heritage. Queens of Africa celebrates being an African girl in the 21st century by drawing on the strengths and achievements of ancestors and bring them up to date to empower and inspire today’s generation of African girls.
Momppy Mpoppy Dolls (South Africa): Fashion forward with an afro, the doll seeks to be a trendy and attractive alternative to Barbie for girls of African descent.
Sarama Dolls (Côte d’Ivoire): Dolls dressed in traditional Ivorian gear, they celebrate various cultures in Côte d’Ivoire.
Local entrepreneurs are partnering with (department) stores or e-commerce sites to ensure greater distribution across the country and increasingly all through the world. Although, the middle class is enthusiastic about such empowering cultural products, prices and availability remain barriers that brands need to address to develop mainstream products.