Friday, February 3, 2012

Homage to Léon G. Damas

   Search engine optimization gurus always counsel you to choose a name for your blog or website that is easy for people to remember and clearly indicates what the site is about.  I knew when I chose the name “Limbé Dolls” that I was violating this rule and that readers would be wondering “What on earth does Limbé mean and how the heck do you pronounce it?”  Google wouldn’t even let me put the accent over the final “e.”  Still, I wanted to pay homage to one of my favorite poets, Léon G. Damas and the refrain of his poem, “Limbé,” does clearly indicate what this blog is about – “give me back my black dolls.” 

    Damas was born into a middle class mulatto family in French Guyana in 1912.  After he went to Paris to pursue university studies, Damas became a founding member of the négritude movement.  I discovered this French-speaking analogue of the Harlem Renaissance while studying for the French AP exam when I was in high school.  Sister Dymphna had to make a special trip to the Library of Congress to find the négritude writers’ poems that were on the syllabus! 

    Even though Sister couldn’t tell me much about Damas or his friends, Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor, I was thrilled to learn that there were whole countries full of black people who spoke French.  I didn’t understand until later that “La Grande France” imposed French language and culture on its colonial subjects by force.  The négritude writers expressed the discomfort they felt with the pressure to “assimilate” and become “black Frenchmen” and I could relate to poems like Damas’ “Hoquet” because I had experienced similar pressure to speak “proper” English instead of the black dialect that my grandparents and cousins spoke in rural Virginia.

    This video was supposed to be part of my first blog post back in April, but it took a lot longer to edit than I had anticipated.  I am glad to have it ready in time for Black History month and I hope it will effectively illustrate why I chose the name “Limbé Dolls.”

À Bientôt


  1. This is beautiful and very timely! As I watched the video, I felt like a student among students listening attentively as the instructor so eloquently lectured. Great job and great title of this blog.

    I hope you will continue to shine a positive light on people of color "through the serious business of doll play"!


  2. Merci beaucoup. C'est genial! (I know I am missing the accent, but if I move away to find it, I may not be back here for hours). I loved it. I have wondered about the word limbe and promised I would research it one day. Your classroom is wonderful. Love all the details and little nuances throughout the lesson. Like the diversity of kids in the class. Great way to start the month. I alway look forward to your history lessons.

  3. This is one of the best video's using dolls ever. You did a great job! I thoroughly enjoyed it and watched I 3 times. Thanks for the lesson.

    P.S. I love your setting. So any!

  4. Hi Ladies,

    thanks for your compliments. I originally bought the Teacher Barbie classroom play set back in the 90s. It had about five chairs, a locker, and the teacher's desk. This was before I had any inkling that I would make doll videos so stupidly, I gave it away.

    I am a teacher and I come from a long line of teachers so when I did realize that I wanted to make doll videos, I knew I would need a classroom scene. I had to buy from three different eBay sellers to get enough chairs. The moral is -- hold on to your play sets. They might come in handy some day!

  5. This is phenomenal. I would say it is the best doll video I have ever seen. It would edify my daughter to watch it and I really value things that are edifying. Likewise, it taught me things I did not know in a very intriguing and entertaining way. Not easy to do.

  6. Hi Kristi,

    Thanks for your compliments. I've been holding onto every play set I could get my hands on for the last ten years now so my house looks like MGM backlot. I hope the "Homage to Leon Damas" will be just the first of many edifying and entertaining doll videos.

  7. Hello from Spain: i congratulate you on the video. It is very well done. Sweeps do image and close-ups. I love it. The class is full of students of all nationalities. I like when the teacher says with hand waxea to lighlight what she says. You do a great tribute to your favorite poet: León Damas. Keep in touch

  8. Hi Marta,

    Thanks for your compliments. The students I teach in real life are almost as diverse as the doll students. I have never had a student who used a wheel chair but I did have a deaf student who came to class with a sign language interpreter. Only yesterday I found out that in the late 90s Mattel made a sign language Barbie whose hand is molded in the sign for "I love you." I had an aunt who was deaf so if I ever run across this doll, I would love to add her to my collection.

  9. Leon Damas left a collection of poems, Mine de Riens, that was never published. That collection is now online at: