It all starts with a Swahili Princess and two sisters, an African Barbie Doll

Our 2nd born daughter will be turning 4 years tomorrow. Wanda is a tinker. Unlike her older sister Naomi who has been obsessed with the color pink ever since she could tell colors apart, Wanda was ‘our boy’ till the brother Mosiah came along recently. Personalities, it turns out, start manifesting themselves for  children at a very young age. By the time  our girls turned 3yrs, we could already tell they were like night and day.

Like every other parent living in the urban area where children can’t spend all their spare time outside playing, being mischevious and just being kids, our girls watch cartoons quite a bit. Its something we have been trying to manage.

Naomi, our first born had at some point become obsessed with Sofia. Sofia is a cartoon character, a princess and a stereotype of white priviledge.In order for us to counter this influence the cartoons were having on our daughters, I decided to look for dolls that looked like them. Black with kinky hair. The repeat references to Sofia being beautiful because she has long hair with a Tiara was getting to me. Despite visiting a few malls for nice looking quality black doll, I had to settle for rag dolls from Maasai Market. The girls only played with them for a few days. As soon as the rag dolls were undressed, the girls were bored. Those dolls are now piled up with other discarded toys in some carton waiting for the day interest in them will be sparked again.

Our 2nd born daughter will be turning 4 years tomorrow. Wanda is a tinker. Unlike her older sister Naomi who has been obsessed with the color pink ever since she could tell colors apart, Wanda was ‘our boy’ till the brother Mosiah came along recently. Personalities, it turns out, start manifesting themselves for  children at a very young age. By the time  our girls turned 3yrs, we could already tell they were like night and day.

Perhaps you have  not heard of the Swahili Princess. I don’t blame you. I didn’t either until I made the acquintance of Olivia Mengich a few weeks ago who is introduing this line of dolls  to the East Afrian Market.

>As we were speaking, I mentioned this side hustle I have which I have been trying to turn into my main hustle (This blog) she informed me that she makes Swahili Princess dolls. I made the comment that some time last year, I had written an article awhile back on the growing local craze of skin bleaching. In the article, I deduced that the lack of self love and appreciation is due to strong impressions formed on women as young girls growing up. The notion that someone can only be beautiful when they are white/fair skin with a slim figure and long flowing hair is one that is fed to people worldwide from a very young age mainly through the media. Many fall prey to this Western view of beauty. That is what has fed the cosmetic industry for eons now.

Olivia has not been in business very long and is just starting to make a name for her brand as she iterates features of the Swahili Princess doll line based on feedback from her early customers.

I requested to review two dolls,  the Maasai dressed doll and the Ankara dressed one with braided hair for our daughters with an aim of sharing my review.

When I took the barbie dolls home, the sisters lighted up immediately I took them. Naomi took the Maasai clad one and Wanda the Ankara dressed one. We decided to call the dolls Amani and Subira respectively.

This is my summarised observation that I believe will provide the much needed feedback.

What we liked
1 The fact that there is now a locally available high quality barbie doll is huge. As I mentioned earlier, none of the dolls I saw in the supermarket were close to what I was seeking.
2.The dolls have a swahili name though Wanda kept calling her the ‘Kiswahili princess’
3.They are dressed up in different types of African wear. This means that Naomi can finally start to appreciate her Ankara outfits as much as she appreciates the netted dresses
4.The dolls like most barbie dolls are quite flexible and are quite hardy with ability to withstand falls, twisting, hits on surfaces such as the floor, walls
5.One can change their outfits, shoes and  undo the braids

What can be improved on
1.Although Swahili Princess is a great name, the still does not look that much African. She still retains alot of the barbie doll features. This is understandable as it was the first line that is meant to ‘wean’ us parents and our kids off the barbie doll.
2.The dolls frame is still the slim, tall with long legs model type. I hope there will be a line for chubby ones for our daughters to know that its ok to be healthy.
3.Although its a good idea to make the outfit, earings and shoes removable inorder to dress them up with different accessories, It can be frustrating finding those tiny shoes and tiny earings once lost. Our daughters’ dolls lost their shoes within the first two days. I am yet to find those tiny things.
This is a great start for all East African young girls. Having and playing with a dolls that looks like them will have a lasting impression on their perception of life, beauty and self.
For the first time, Wanda, who has never been much of a girlie type, asked to sleep with her doll Subira. I found that fascinating.

The Swahili Princess doll hair range comes in Afro, Braided and Straight. Darker skinned doll are in the pipeline and  will be available in the near future – it is in the pipeline.

Check out the Swahili Princess and look our for the  Afro hair Swahili Princess doll that  shall be released this week.

Princess doll that  shall be released this week.

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