New range puts skin in the game

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By LEONIE WAG­NER

● Ndanaka stands 30cm tall, watch­ing the world with wide-eyed won­der. Her face and hands make peo­ple look twice. She has vi­tiligo, a con­di­tion that causes the skin to lose pig­men­ta­tion, re­sult­ing in dis­coloured patches.

In Shona her name means “I am beau­ti­ful”. She is the lat­est in a range of dolls that could help change beauty stan­dards in the toy in­dus­try, say en­trepreneurs Caro­line Hlahla and Khulile Vi­lakazi-Ofosu.

They are the cre­ators of the Sibahle Col­lec­tion, which also in­cludes Zuri, a doll with al­binism.

Hlahla and Vi­lakazi-Ofosu say par­ents of­ten strug­gle to find dolls that look like their chil­dren.

“Dolls like Ndanaka speak to those chil­dren with vi­tiligo to reaf­firm that they are beau­ti­ful. These dolls teach chil­dren to ap­pre­ci­ate beauty in all its forms and grow up feel­ing like they are enough, they don’t have to look a cer­tain way to stand up proudly and feel beau­ti­ful,” Hlahla said.

The idea for Ndanaka came af­ter they’d watched a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view with ac­tress Leleti Khu­malo, who has vi­tiligo.

The col­lec­tion teaches chil­dren to ap­pre­ci­ate beauty in all its forms and grow up feel­ing like they are enough

Caro­line Hlahla

“We have po­si­tioned our­selves to be the voice for kids who have pre­vi­ously not been rep­re­sented by the beauty and toy in­dus­try,” said Vi­lakazi-Ofosu.

“Our brand is about teach­ing kids to love them­selves the way they are and to em­brace and cel­e­brate di­ver­sity.”

The duo launched a crowd­fund­ing page to raise funds to man­u­fac­ture Ndanaka and mer­chan­dise for some of their other dolls.

Their col­lec­tion of vanilla-scented dolls also in­cludes Nobuhle, whose name means “the one who rep­re­sents beauty” in Zulu; Bon­tle, mean­ing “beauty” in Sotho; Neha, an In­dian her­itage doll; and a coloured doll named Ayana.

The busi­ness was founded in 2016 af­ter Vi­lakazi-Ofosu’s daugh­ter, who was three years old at the time, said she wanted “flowy hair”.

The Sibahle Col­lec­tion — mean­ing “we are beau­ti­ful” in Zulu — was born out of the need to en­cour­age black chil­dren to be com­fort­able in their own skins. Each doll’s name is there­fore a ref­er­ence to “beau­ti­ful” or “beauty” in an indige­nous lan­guage.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tion for kids is very im­por­tant. It in­forms their out­look on life and their self­es­teem,” Vi­lakazi-Ofosu said.

“Until re­cently, there has only been one stan­dard of beauty. If we teach our kids from a young age to ac­cept who they are, we will be­gin to chip away a lit­tle at the many di­vi­sive is­sues that we are cur­rently fac­ing in this world.”

Pic­ture: Alais­ter Rus­sell

Nobuntu Mo­rake, a young woman who has the skin con­di­tion vi­tiligo, holds up Ndanaka, a doll in the Sibahle Col­lec­tion that was in­spired by peo­ple with vi­tiligo.

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