Writer: Sanel Mbokazi
For decades the Barbie doll has been the most recognised and successful brand around the world when it comes to children’s toys. However, the debate around creating and producing dolls that represent the diversity of every child has been going on for years thus resulting in some parents refusing to purchase the Barbie doll for their children.
Khulile Vilakazi-Osofu and Caroline Hlahla the co-founders of Sibahle Dolls Collection, saw the gap in the market and created dolls that represent the African child. “Sibahle” which means we are beautiful is a collection of various dolls that are a true reflection of young African girls through the colour of their skin and the texture of their hair. Caroline said, “Aesthetically we wanted something that is representative of the beautiful black child because we are that, but we are not so based on what we see being sold as ‘black dolls’ on the market”. What makes the Sibahle doll special is that the afro hair texture on it is made in such a way that it feels like real afro hair which the young girls can relate to. In a world that has bashed the African child for their hair texture, Sibahle dolls is making it “cool” to have kinky hair without feeling ashamed.
When it comes to fashion and dressing the dolls, Sibahle dolls are always slaying in African prints and attires that represent different and various cultures that Africa has to offer. The founders went an extra mile by creating a matching outfit for the doll and the child so that the child can look exactly like their doll. To celebrate heritage month, the dolls were dressed to represent different cultures namely the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Pedi, Swati and Indian culture to name a few. The dolls are also named in African names like Nobuhle and Bontle.
The founders were applauded for creating an Indian doll named Neha, mixed-race doll named Ayana and the doll that is living with an albinism condition named Zuri. These dolls represent the minority of children that are often overlooked or made fun of for looking different than the rest. In celebrating Albinism awareness week, Zuri the doll represented in the doll world.
Besides selling dolls, the Sibahle Collection has also created backpacks, trolley bags, lunch bags, pencil cases, boots and umbrellas to add to the collection. Parents are going as far as doing Sibahle Doll themed birthday parties to show support of this incredible creation. The Sibahle Dolls are selling like hot cakes and they are a hit sensation even beyond the boarders in countries like Zimbabwe and London.
Khulile and Caroline are a force to be reckoned with as they have changed the game and changed the African narrative when it comes to representation, identity and being proud of who we are and what we look like. Children will now grow up loving the colour of their skin and the texture of their hair because they have the dolls that look exactly like them. We hope in the future we will get to see male dolls as well. Salute ladies.bh