X85.179 Dibik doll

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Dibik doll
Tanzania
Watotoga peoples
Cloth
H: 23.0 cm, W: 9.0 cm, D: 5.0 cm (H: 9.0 in, W: 3.5 in, D: 1.9 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Collected by the Tanzania National Museum/University of California Cooperative Collecting Project. X85.179

Category:
Description

In the United States, dolls are primarily for play, although occasionally they cross the boundary into ritual, as when a doll portrays Baby Jesus in a “living creche.” African dolls also cross this boundary; for example, successful ere ibeji are often displayed on shrines for the deity Shango. In the most provocative cases, however, the Western and African models collide and play results. At South Quang’Ndenda Primary School in Mangola, Tanzania, for instance, little girls (five to eight years old) have been introduce through formal Western-style schooling to new materials and techniques for doll making. In their art classes they tie together scraps of material to create female rag dolls for play. Such innovations not only change definitions of dolls but also introduce and reinforce Western culture. The ethnic groups attending this school, primarily subgroups of the Watotoga, have resisted changes in women’s dress because of the strong metaphysical associations of the hanangwend, a leather skirt presented to goddess Udameselgwa gave the hanangwend to women, saying that to wear it ensured fertility. The British government’s attempt to have the Watotoga people wear clothing made of cotton rather than leather was only partially successful: the men made the change fairly easily, but the women balked. However, by 1985, when this doll was collected in the field by Bob Schilling, a member of the Cooperative Collecting Project, the women were wearing combinations of Watotoga and Westenized materials. Creating and playing with a doll wearing cotton cloth and Western-style dress makes it easier for the girls to adopt “modern” clothing as adults.

Source: Cameron, Elisabeth L. (1996) “Isn’t S/He a Doll?”, Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 36

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