A Range Of Black Dolls From South Africa That Step Up The Diversity Stakes? Yes Please!


If you’re read any of our coverage of emerging doll brands that are seeking to break the mold on what dolls should look like, you will be familiar with the trend that is beginning to overtake the fast-fading reign of Barbie. While the Mattel doll certainly still corners a majority share of the $2.3 billion dollar annual market, she has some stiff competition which keeps on increasing.

Despite Barbie’s continual dominance in the doll market, Fortune reports that their sales have declined over the past 3 years consecutively, and now LEGO is now the world’s number one toy-maker. This is a good sign, it means consumers are starting to grow restless with the narrow Barbie standards and are looking for more diversity, something that will appeal to a wide range of buyers.

One of the big issues with Barbie is their lack of diverse representations. And before you say “hey they sell African-American dolls” let’s just be clear, their black version of a white doll ain’t gonna cut it. We want to see dolls that represent the black women with realistic features, something which Barbie fails to do.

So far we have seen two new doll collections being made by parents who aren’t waiting around for Mattel to offer what their girls need. The ‘Queens of Africa’ dolls were created by a man in Nigeria who wanted to give his niece and many other Nigerian girls a doll that resembles them, complete with traditional clothing, and the Angelica Doll created by a mom and dad team here in the US was designed to enable their daughter and others a chance to play with a doll that has hair and features just like them.


Now we can add a third country and third collection of dolls looking to cater to young black girls: Momppy Mpoppy are a range of black dolls from South Africa who is being marketed as a doll with a funky afro who loves adventure and fashion.

The creator of Momppy Mpoppy is 26 year old Maite Makgoba who is an entrepreneur and the founder of the Childish Trading and Manufacturing company. She told AFP that the idea for her business started when she realized the black dolls currently on the market did not appeal to children.

“They were frumpy and unattractive, some in traditional attire. That is not the reality of today,” she said.

The dolls are designed and and styled in downtown Johannesburg, but assembled in China. Aside from designing the dolls to have funky outfits, Maite has also created a line of clothing that a girl can wear to match her Momppy Mpoppy doll.


This is intentional so each girl can see she clearly identifies with the doll and isn’t made to feel like she doesn’t “fit in” amongst a world of toys that are often marketed to create “aspirational ideals” rather than inspirational ones.

“We want kids to see beauty in Mpoppy, to see themselves while playing with her. Dolls are often white, people in magazines are white, even in a country like South Africa where the majority are black,” said Maite.

“Black children are confronted with growing up in a world that does not represent them, everything is skewed towards whiteness,” she added.

She is not wrong there, that is something black men and women all over the world can identify with. Although Maite is up against major competition in the doll market in South Africa where Barbie is also a heavy hitter according to Mic, she is encouraged by the very positive response from parents that have already heard of Momppy Mpoppy.


“Parents and children have quickly taken to the doll. But we still need to convince large retailers to sell our brand,” she said.

These dolls don’t just give girls a more accurate representation of themselves, they also make a major difference in their self-esteem and personal development. Some studies show that an overwhelming amount of homogenous dolls can even cause eating disorders and body dysmorphia in girls.

“It’s not just entertainment… dolls are a big part of a girl child’s life, therefore it is important that such toys help build a child’s character and self-esteem,” said Johannesburg child psychologist Melita Heyns.

The girls who play with dolls, usually within the ages of 3-9, look to them as their no.1 source of inspiration in terms of body image and appearance so it is crucial to present images that are as diverse as possible. In a world where 57 year-old Barbie’s sales total over 1 million a week globally, it’s hard to imagine Mattel seeing the need to change their model, but perhaps if their declining figures are anything to go by, this may change as more companies like Momppy Mpoppy infiltrate the market.

To find out where you can purchase Momppy Mpoppy or to contact the manufacturer, click here.







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