When Taliah first visited Africa, my relatives gave her an Afro doll as a gift. But she found it difficult to accept this gift. When she was given the doll, she screamed and threw it away.
My daughter had never seen a black doll in her almost five-year life. Well, in Uganda, that moment came. At first she was afraid of the figure, unsettled. The doll was now lying on the floor. Taliah watched her shyly out of the corner of her eye for several minutes before picking up the doll again. Now she looked closely at the figure, touched his hair and brown eyes.
Shortly thereafter, she took out her old white doll and held the two figures side by side and compared them. The white one, she said, looks like Elsa from the movie “Frozen”. The other looks like Taliah. She slowly got to know her Afro doll. After a few days, she asked me to braid her own hair to match her Afro doll’s hairstyle. She named the doll Hanah.
Hanah became like a friend for the time we were in Uganda. She carried her almost everywhere, played with her and took her to bed with her. Then the day of our return drew near – and it happened. Sitting on the plane, just before departure, we realized that Hanah was missing. We had forgotten her. I comforted my daughter and promised that I would buy her a second Hanah in Germany, just like the one we left behind.
One should be careful with such promises. Because our first trip to the big toy stores in Munich was anything but successful. It turned out that Afro dolls don’t appear to be part of the range in the city’s shops. We went from store to store and Taliah got more and more frustrated. I felt the same way. We returned home without a doll.
The internet was our only hope. From the sofa we researched a doll that resembled the Ugandan Hanah down to the afro hair – and ordered it. The only question is why a black doll has to be considered a fancy piece at all.
This experience isn’t just about a little girl’s doll. It’s much more a story about how dolls can have cultural, social and practical meaning across races. For children, dolls have meaning that includes their use as a source of entertainment, leisure, education, and participation in role-playing games that mimic everyday life. Not to forget the personal connection to the doll. Perhaps a little more choice of colors in Munich’s doll and toy shops would do the city’s fabric good.
As far as I’m concerned, this doll represents a whole society. Something unknown appears, triggering fear at first. Then those involved get closer, the unknown grows fond of you – and suddenly you don’t want to be without it anymore. Hanna II has now arrived – and has a permanent place at Taliah’s side.