Help­ing kids to feel love and em­brace who they are

Sunday World - - Life -

Cape Town-born Yolanda Donkers dreams of the day when even Amer­i­cans will speak of or­der­ing a “Vangiwe” or “Gugu” doll.

She says the term “Bar­bie” must fall, as it’s used to re­fer to any doll. Donkers, from Gugulethu, is the cre­ator be­hind Lu­vuthando dolls. The brand it­self was born in Fe­bru­ary this year. She says in­spi­ra­tion came from mem­o­ries of be­ing teased as a child for be­ing too dark.

“I hated my com­plex­ion most of my child­hood. My kids were raised in a pre­dom­i­nantly white sub­urb and there was once an in­ci­dent whilst seek­ing a new school where my son was ‘dis­gusted’ and re­fused to at­tend the school when he saw 95% of all kinds of brown kids on the play­ground, as they were used to be­ing the only black kids in schools. I needed to change this,” says the 41 year old.

She made a doll in her chil­dren’s im­age and called the col­lec­tion Lu­vuthando af­ter her chil­dren Lu­vuyo and Uthando.

“Com­bined it means feel the love. I knew I had to teach them about our cul­ture and about the di­ver­sity of the hu­man race and how each one is unique. Es­pe­cially teach­ing them to em­brace who they are.

“I never had a doll grow­ing up and my orange fluffy owl or­na­ment taught me to see beauty in un­ex­pected spa­ces. I made it my mis­sion to re­search about black dolls.”

Donkers or­ders the pro­to­type out­side of SA and adapts it to fit var­i­ous per­sonas.

“SA cur­rently doesn’t man­u­fac­ture plas­tic dolls. We have it made in China. We then re-root some of the dolls to give them a more nat­u­ral and re­al­is­tic look. Some are braided, oth­ers have afro-hair or dread­locks. The male dolls are al­ways re­rooted as they are pur­chased with no hair. We also change the eye and lip colour, ap­ply foun­da­tion and blusher then we seal the make-up with a glossy medium for dura­bil­ity.

“Doll cloth­ing is de­signed by my­self, then re­pro­duced in Cape Town. The fab­ric is sourced lo­cally as well as nearby African coun­tries like Zam­bia. Doll ac­ces­sories are de­signed and made by my­self. My aes­thetic is Afro-chic vin­tage. Some de­signs are in­spired by the di­verse cul­tures in South Africa

hence the Afro-cen­tric doll col­lec­tion with Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Nde­bele etc.”

Donkers who is also a singer, fash­ion de­signer and liv­ing pos­i­tively with HIV for 20 years, says her dolls are favoured in the US, UK and in the Nether­lands. She re­cently show­cased them at MIDEM 2018 in Cannes, France, and Afrika Fes­ti­val Ni­jmegen.

The names she has given them are Shikanda Starr – ris­ing star, Mi­nathi – stand­ing with us, Si­nen­tle – we have a beau­ti­ful one, Nala – her mom’s clan name, Malaika – an­gel in Swahili, Sihle – it’s beau­ti­ful and Amahle – beau­ti­ful/hand­some. She has also in­cluded a male doll and one with al­binism to her col­lec­tion

“I’m also in the process of hav­ing my own doll de­signed – with more African fea­tures. I would like to even­tu­ally do away with peo­ple call­ing African dolls Bar­bie dolls. I would like for in­stance to hear an Amer­i­can say they want a Vangiwe or Gugu doll.

“I’m all about un­sung he­roes. So, I’ll hope­fully create in­flu­en­tial icons that most peo­ple haven’t heard of or are less cel­e­brated.”

Doll with locks af­firm Africans.

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