Patois-talking doll takes off in Europe

January 03, 2017
Ian Allen/Photographer Saffron Jackson shows off her Jamaican dolls.
Ian Allen/Photographer Saffron Jackson shows off her Jamaican dolls.

The first Jamaican Patois-talking doll line was recently launched by a Jamaican teacher living in the United Kingdom (UK), and it has taken the market by storm.

"People love that it speaks Jamaican. I've been getting sales from Australia, Estonia, Amsterdam, Germany, and all these places, which show there is a massive demand for our culture," the doll's creator, Saffron Jackson, told THE STAR.

She officially launched the dark-skinned curly-haired dolls on November 24 at the Jamaican High Commission in the UK, and they were then made available to the pubic online a week later.

"My phone went off literally non-stop," Jackson said, adding that she has far exceeded her sales target of 400 dolls during the peak Christmas season, and orders are still rolling in.

"Right now, I have an order from Miami for 50 dolls," she said.

When the torso of the doll, called Toya, is squeezed, she utters authentic Jamaica Patois phrases, lauding her culture.

"Wah gwaan? Weh yaa seh? Wha happen? Me name Toya, and me a wah Zuree Doll from the beautiful island of Jamaica. We have the best beaches and sunshine all through di year," is a snippet of her speech.

Women's advocate and gender specialist Nadine Spence told THE STAR that the idea is very relevant

as girls of ethnic diversities need representation.

"It sounds exciting. There is a market for it. Especially for those in the diaspora, I think it's keeping those second-generation young children connected to Jamaica and to their heritage," Spence said.


Black doll for daughter


Jackson, a 38-year-old Bog Walk, St Catherine, native, explained that she first got the idea to create her own doll after becoming pregnant with her first daughter. She wanted to give her daughter a beautiful black doll that truly represented her, but could not find any.

"All the black dolls I have seen were from America, and most of them were either ugly or not to my liking. I thought, why not create my own doll?," she said.

The Jamaican Patois-talking doll is the premier product of the Zuree Doll line. According to Jackson, the line produces dolls to represent ethnic diversities.

"The idea behind this is to show little girls that regardless of their skin tone or hair texture, they're indeed beautiful. Hence, the name Zuree. It come from Swahili, and it means beautiful," Jackson explained.

Jackson is also developing a clothing line for the dolls, which will be done by a designer in Jamaica.

Other projects in the works include a Zuree Girls book series, the first of which has already been published. In addition, a Rasta-talking bear will also be launched around March.

Those hoping to cop one of the Patois-speaking toys have to fork up £50 (J$7917), which Jackson admits is a bit pricey for the average Jamaican. She said she is working on cutting that price, however, she currently has to outsource manufacturing to China.

Jackson said her aim is to make Zuree Dolls a fixture in all major doll stores worldwide, so that all girls can have beautiful dolls that look just like them.

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