S. African black doll breaks the mold in high style


She is black and trendy, and young South African girls are learn­ing to love her.

Meet Momppy Mpoppy, who is a step ahead of other black dolls across Africa who are of­ten dressed in tra­di­tional eth­nic clothes.

Decked out in the latest fash­ions and sport­ing an im­pres­sive afro, com­plete with a tiara, Momppy could play her own small part in chang­ing the way that black chil­dren look at them­selves.

Maite Mak­goba, founder of Child­ish Trad­ing and Man­u­fac­tur­ing, told AFP she started her small busi­ness af­ter re­al­iz­ing that black dolls avail­able on the mar­ket “did not ap­peal to chil­dren.”

“They were frumpy and unattrac­tive, some in tra­di­tional at­tire. That is not the re­al­ity of to­day,” said the 26-year-old en­tre­pre­neur.

The dolls are as­sem­bled in China, but the real work starts in Mak­goba’s tiny workspace in down­town Johannesburg, where they are styled and pack­aged be­fore they are sent to in­de­pen­dent dis­trib­u­tors.

In­side the two-room ware­house, minia­ture pieces of cloth­ing are sewn and pressed by hand. Ap­pear­ance is ev­ery­thing.

Eye-catch­ing bal­le­rina skirts, denim pants and “on trend” jump­suits with bright high heels are some of the items in Momppy Mpoppy’s im­pres­sive wardrobe.

Among the dif­fer­ent Mpoppy out­fits are “Denim Dun­ga­ree De­li­cious,” “Rock­star Tutu,” “Mo­hawk Fro” and “Se­sh­weshwe Fabolous” — with each doll cost­ing 180 rand ( US$ 14).

To com­plete the ex­pe­ri­ence, the com­pany also makes match­ing clothes for girls who own the doll.

“This is more than just a busi­ness, we are cre­at­ing aware­ness, that our dark skin and thick afro hair are pretty as they are,” said Mak­goba.

“We want kids to see beauty in Mpoppy, to see them­selves while play­ing with her.

“Dolls are of­ten white, peo­ple in mag­a­zines are white, even in a coun­try like South Africa where the ma­jor­ity are black.

“Black chil­dren are con­fronted with grow­ing up in a world that does not rep­re­sent them, ev­ery­thing is skewed to­wards white­ness.”

Body Im­age

Mak­goba ad­mits that the fledg­ing com­pany which she started in 2013 faces a stiff com­pe­ti­tion from es­tab­lished toy brands, but she was en­cour­aged by the “over­whelm­ing re­sponse” from buy­ers.

“Par­ents and chil­dren have quickly taken to the doll. But we still need to con­vince large re­tail­ers to sell our brand,” she said, de­clin­ing to re­veal ex­act sales num­bers.

Nokuthula Maseko, a 30-year-old mother of two, said her chil­dren had “fallen in love with the un­usual doll” af­ter she came across it on so­cial media — the com­pany’s big­gest mar­ket­ing tool.

“I like the fact that the doll looks like my kids, in a world where the stan­dards of beauty are of­ten liked to cau­casian fea­tures,” said Maseko. “The kids love the doll.” “This is a big so­cial move­ment ... it can help pre­vent body im­age in­se­cu­rity among chil­dren,” she added.


This file pic­ture taken on July 8 shows the Denim Dun­ga­ree, one of many Momppy Mpoppy dolls, set against a sewing ma­chine in Johannesburg.

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