Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Liberian "Barbies" Have African Figures, Clothing

After the other random discussions we've had here before about Barbies, there was no way I could pass up this story! Liberian Cora Taylor purchases Barbie-like dolls and customizes them to be more "like her." Her first step in this process? To use a hot glue gun and cotton balls to enlarge the dolls' busts and booties.

Next she cuts their hair off so it can be covered with a headscarf and designs and sews each outfit separately. Each doll she creates has a completely unique outfit made out of traditional lapa cloth.

"Lapa is a brightly colored and patterned cloth commonly sold in markets and by tailors everywhere in West Africa. Across the continent in East Africa, similar cloth is called kitenge. These days much of the fabric is manufactured in China, although it is still called “African.” Taylor makes miniature outfits out of the cloth to dress the dolls. She's bothered that the dolls aren't more "authentic" (her words) but she sews away anyway." (Source)
What do you think of these "Barbies?" Does their culturally-based uniqueness change the way you think about a typically American doll? Does it make a difference to know that Cora lived in the US for many years while Liberia was at war? What do you think of a woman making a brand her own this way?

Related posts:
Barbie Power
Barbie, Served Hot and Cold

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Kris the Vagabond said...

I think it's a great idea to take something like a Barbie doll - one that has set its own corporate standard of what a woman should look like - and change it. I used to take the little dolls that came in happy meals and adjust them with sharpie pen and safety pins to match my then very goth appearance. Why not? Creative and artistic expression of identity is a great thing.

Delightfully Healthy said...

They look a little like African Stepford Wives... I think they're very cool. And I LOVE that she gives them boobs and butts. It's about time someone did!