Ntomb’entle Dolls founder Molemo Kgomo - photographer Alex Holder
Ntomb’entle Dolls founder Molemo Kgomo - photographer Alex Holder

Dolls show black is beautiful

By Nontando Mposo Time of article published Apr 10, 2015

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Cape Town – Her frustration about the scarcity of black dolls in the South African market sparked Molemo Kgomo to start her own range. They’re called Ntomb’entle (beautiful girl) dolls and have taken South Africa by storm.

Unlike your typical Barbie-type dolls, the Ntomb’entle dolls have a fuller figure, curly afros and bigger eyes. The range of eight are dressed in colourful traditional African outfits, representing the Ndebele, Sotho, Xhosa, Zulu, Tsonga, Xhosa, Pedi and Venda.

“I came up with the idea when I couldn’t find a suitable doll for my daughter. I just felt we needed to have a toy or doll that will represent us or a doll our kids can identify with,” says Kgomo, the mother of two girls aged 12 and 7.

Launched in March 1959 by American toy company Mattel, Barbie dolls can be found in almost every little girl’s home across the world. But the iconic doll has come under increasing fire from critics and feminists for teaching children to aspire to unrealistic body types and beauty. There is currently a growing number of movements and campaigns on social networks, advocating for the plastic dolls to be banned.

When Kgomo introduced her Ntomb’entle dolls on social media at the weekend, they received positive reviews, especially from young mothers.

The Ntomb’entle range comes after the “Queens of Africa” dolls created by Nigerian Taofick Okoya. His dark-skinned dolls, who are also dressed in African outfits, are currently one of the best-selling toys in Nigeria.

Joburg-based Kgomo says that she first made an attempt to launch the range five years ago

“The market at the time was not ready and I was told ‘black dolls will not sell’ or ‘there is no demand for black dolls’,” she says.

“I started selling from my car and by word-of-mouth, but the word was getting out slowly. The brand was relaunched in March, just before my birthday and it was the best gift. Mpumi Motshabi bought two dolls for her kids from a lady who had bought from me and she asked for my contacts. We met and she helped to get the dolls out there… I think it took this long because maybe buyers didn’t think it would work,” explains Kgomo.

Although there are a number of brown-skinned dolls currently on offer at selected retailers, most appear to be of mixed race with long hair, and none are dressed in traditional wear.

Both Kgomo’s daughters are big fans of the Ntomb’entle dolls and enjoy dressing them in different outfits, she says.

“Ntomb’entle represents beautiful African girls or women. I want my girls to know that they are beautiful outside and inside. I am teaching them to love the way they look and that there is nothing wrong with their skin colour. They both want to be designers when they grow up and my older one wants to model as well,” says Kgomo.

“My kids always play a role in everything I do. They are currently helping to design clothing and accessories for the next range.”

Kgomo admits to receiving some negative feedback from people who did not see a market for the dolls, but she says this only pushes her to work harder and prove them wrong.

“I am glad now that they (the dolls) have been well received and I know that this will go far.

“I am currently working on the next range and will still keep limited editions of my first range,” she says.

Just like Barbie has Ken, a male range of the Ntomb’entle dolls is in the pipeline, says Kgomo.

“It will be interesting to see how boys will feel about them. My girls can’t wait for them,” she says.

Her future plans include attending the “I want one just like me” Black Dolls Expo in the UK.

“I am also hoping that toy stores will be willing to have the brand in their stores and give them enough window space to advertise,” she says. “I do believe this will help our kids to see themselves as beautiful and to appreciate their cultures and heritage. Also, to boost their self esteem.

“I personally like the doll because it is a full-bodied doll with hips and a bum (and) beautiful big eyes that can move.

“It is so fulfilling to hear kids saying: “e tshwana le nna” (it looks like me),” says Kgomo.

The Ntomb’entle dolls, which each cost R220, can be ordered via e-mail at [email protected]

For wholesale and distribution, e-mail [email protected]

Cape Argus

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