Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Bientot

“It would take an act of god,” I thought when I submitted my application for a Fulbright fellowship to teach American and African American Literature in Senegal.  I was a French major who had never found the resources to study or work in a francophone country.  I had passed the written test but failed the oral exam for Foreign Service applicants three times.  I had applied to the Peace Corps four times without success.  So last March when I learned I had been selected as a Fulbright Fellow for the 2013-2014 academic year, I broke down and cried.

Much of our experience in life depends on the stories we tell ourselves about what has happened in the past or is likely to happen in the future.  Through play and visualization, it is possible to re-write our personal stories and cast ourselves as victors rather than as victims.  Thus, when I started this blog my intention was to further my own healing.  In April 2011 when I published my first Limbe Dolls blog post, I was coming to the end of a teaching contract and didn’t have another job lined up.  I didn’t even have a clear vision of what I wanted to do next.  

From the outside, the hours I spent playing with dolls might have looked like indulgence in escapist fantasies, but my doll play actually helped me envision and manifest a new direction in life.  Knowing of my fondness for dolls, a colleague brought this lady back from Senegal for me last summer:  


I envied him deeply because I had dreamed of traveling to Senegal since the late 1980s when one of my French professors showed us slides of his hometown, Dakar.  My envy motivated me to reach for and embrace this long-standing dream.

Photographing and writing about black dolls in scenes where blacks don’t normally appear in mainstream media depictions of American life played a big role in preparing me for this new journey.   The stories I published on this blog along with those that I chose not to post have healed some holes in my self-image.  Meanwhile, as I absorbed other bloggers’ creativity, I gained confidence in a future where all things are possible.  I am deeply thankful to the following bloggers for sharing their visions:

Black Doll Collecting
Debbie Behan Garrett’s posts are always well-written, meticulously researched, and highly informative.  She illustrates each one with photographs that carefully document the dolls she describes.  At the same time, however the many repair and restoration tips and creative projects she shares make her blog a prime example of how to have fun with your dolls.  Of all her posts I have most enjoyed the “Moments in Black Doll History” series from February 2010 and the follow-up “Black Dolls from around the World” series from March 2010.

D7ana’s knowledge of 1:6 scale dolls and action figures is encyclopedic.  She always shares the latest news about new releases and has been responsible for sparking my desire to add many of the dolls and action figures I have purchased in the last two years to my collection.  At the same time she also has a wry sense of humor and has provoked some interesting discussions such as how to treat action figures representing the POTUS or biblical personages with appropriate reverence and respect.

Ms. Leo is my favorite storyteller of all the doll bloggers I follow.   I especially like her creative use of backdrops to evoke scenes such as the Laurent family villa in the Caribbean.  One of the things I most appreciate about romance in the blog world is that characters actually take the time to get to know each other.  “Khadijah’s First Valentine’s Day” presents the kind of respectful suitor I would like to encounter one day.  When she finds the time, Ms. Leo also produces some sweet videos such as “Renee to the Rescue.”

Van’s Doll Treasures
When I first discovered that there were blogs devoted to black dolls, Vanessa Morrison represented the artist I wanted to be when I grew up.  While I had dreamed of producing doll videos for years, here was someone who was actually doing it and attracting a large, enthusiastic audience.  Her videos counter negative stereotypes of African Americans by featuring African American and multi-ethnic dolls in vignettes of family life, highlighting the small pleasures and special moments that constitute the most treasured human experiences.  

The romance of Daniel Harper and Roderick Taylor unfolded over many months and culminated in a beautiful wedding.  Yet these vignettes are not pure saccharin.  The wedding ended in a surprise plot twist that healed a long-standing family estrangement.  Further, the Taylor household is a blended family and as is often the case in real-life, shared custody and former spouses with un-resolved issues can create some drama (“Nicole Goes Home”).  No wonder Morrison's You Tube channel has garnered over 3,000 subscribers and almost 5 million views! 
Brooklyn Stars Forever
In 2009, the on-line dating site, O.K. Cupid  published a study entitled “How Your Race Affects the Messages You Get.”  The disheartening data showed that black women and Asian men were most likely to be overlooked in the on-line dating scene.  Ebony Nicole presents a heart-warming solution in her series of videos featuring the romance between Addie, an African American dancer, and Takeo, a Japanese-American special agent.

Hey It’s Muff
Muff first made her presence known through the humorous comments she posted on other blogs.  Her own blog subsequently became an invaluable resource for tutorials on building sets and modifying dolls.  Her stories about another black woman/ Asian man romance have set a new standard for doll videos with outstanding scripts, detailed set design, and expert cinematography.

All 4 Barbie
One of the pleasures of blogging is connecting with people from all over the world who share common interests.  It has been very encouraging to receive complimentary comments from the Spanish blogger, Marta.  It has also been very impressive to watch her attract almost 800 followers since February 2012.  My favorite All 4 Barbie post puts the latest Barbie from Spain to work as a cultural ambassador, explaining the Feria de Abril.

Plastic Adventures
Sergio brings a refreshing male perspective and an engaging sense of humor to his comments and posts.  I have especially enjoyed his photo stories inspired by the Goth doll craze:
"Never Judge a Book by its Cover" in which Monster High Tora Lei encounters the Midnight Magic girls and "Plastic Horror 1" in which clone zombies attack the branded dolls.

Smidge House
Smidge”s “Flashback Friday” reminiscences about doll play with her sister brought up many fond memories from my own childhood.  The craftsmanship in her 1:6 scale furniture was impeccable and it was exciting to see her work gain recognition as she garnered commissions for 1:6 scale sets from Hollywood.  Smidge has temporarily suspended her blog but I'm sure she will come back better than ever.  Best wishes!

Creazione – Creation in Miniature
Em’lia is in a class by herself.  I was initially enchanted with the fin de siècle doll house she created.  Although I didn’t discover her blog until after the 2009 Couture Doll Design Challenge had ended, I found her posts about the creative process behind her victory in the contest to be riveting.  While her Innamorata dolls will probably always be above my touch, it has been wonderful to watch her bring her artistic vision to life.  In particular I appreciate her Nnaji sculpt which truly shows the beauty of African women.

It was clear that Frannie’s heart was open to the whole human family because she delighted in dolls of every stripe and had positive comments for everyone.  Her plucky spirit reveled in small pleasures throughout her battle with cancer.  Her death was a great loss to the doll community.

In 1803 a group of newly arrived Ibo captives who had been sold at the slave market in Savannah, Georgia seized control of the vessel that was transporting them to plantations on Saint Simons Island and drowned the crew.  When they ran aground in Dunbar Creek, they waded into the swamp in an act that contemporary observers described as a collective suicide.  Their "death before enslavement" spirit has inspired many African American folktales and literary works that imagine they succeeded in walking across the water or flying back home.

The stories we tell ourselves and each other through the serious business of doll play are a form of creative visualization that can free the mind and foster faith in infinite possibilities.  May our dolly daydreams carry us all home.

Me in Saint Louis, Senegal

See you soon!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Freaky Friday

*This post contains doll nudity and adult situations.  Reader discretion is advised.


Every Friday after school Carmilla likes to stop by her favorite Die-ner for a snack.

"What will you have today?" asks Vertrice, the waitress.

"The usual."


"Here you are Carmilla.  Bone apetit!"

Mattel's Monster High line has become so popular that discount clones have finally hit the shelves.  D7ana alerted me to this six pack of Kid Connection dolls now available at Walmart.

It's been a rough week so Kayley is relieved to step into the shower and wash her cares away.

After changing into a pretty frock she stops to check her make up in the mirror over the sink.

Then she sits down to put on her shoes.

She can't wait to get to the new party lounge her friends are raving about and dance the night away.

Kayley is from the second wave of Midnight Magic dolls produced by the Lovely Patsy company.  These dolls have new outfits to share with Nefera de Nile.  The blow molded boots are the same but I cut them down to ankle boots to add some variety to the shoe options available for these big foot girls.  The new Midnight Magic dolls have more fluid click knees and their fingers are no longer splayed which should make it easier for them to don some of the Bratzillas fashions that Nefera has been keeping all to herself.

The club is jumping when Ulalume arrives.

Endora is already throwing down on the dance floor,

and Mircala is already on her second drink.

Endora spots Ulalume and sizes her up.

Mircala just sniffs.  "She can't hold a candle to me."

Ghouls throwing shade don't phase Ulalume.  "I feel lucky tonight."

Ulalume is one of Edgar Allan Poe's poems about the death of a beautiful woman.  I thought the name would be fitting for a zombie doll.  Carmilla and Mircala also have literary antecedents.  I named them after the vampire countess in Sheridan LeFanu's 1872 novel, Carmilla.  Darrin Stephens' mother-in-law in the "Bewitched" television series (1964-72) was named Endora, probably in reference to the biblical Witch of Endor who summoned the spirit of the prophet Samuel for King Saul (1st Book of Samuel 28:3-25).   My Endora was a Just Kidz Scary Fashion doll featured in a Philly Collector post earlier this summer.  I was able to upgrade Endora to a a Disney Classic Princess Mulan body that matched her fair complexion.  Unfortunately, I doubt I will find good complexion matches for most of the Kid Connection scary dolls since blue, green, and orange articulated bodies are hard to come by.

Zenobia got lucky early in the evening and has brought her prey back to her lair.

She plans to give him just what he deserves.

"How do you like that, big boy?"

"Ahhh...Don't stop," he moans in exquisite agony.

Like Ulalume and Mircala, Zenobia has been shopping in the Star Doll wardrobe.  These fashions fit their Chic Boutique bodies well because like the Star Dolls they are slimmer than Barbie.

While her peers fritter their time away dancing, Tituba has spent countless Friday evenings working late in her laboratory.  Tonight she is finally ready to run her experiement.  She throws a switch and steps back to recite the incantation.

The newly reborn creature's eyes flutter open.  "Mama?"  she murmurs.

"What have I wrought?" Tituba marvels.

Tituba's creature is a Gothic Girl Draculara clone from Dollar General.  She can wear many Bratz fashions.  I upgraded her big sister to a Monster High body.

The historical Tituba was a slave accused of practicing witchcraft during the 1672 Salem witch trials. The character Tituba plays a prominent role in Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible.  In 1955 Anne Petry published Tituba of Salem Village, a young adult novel about this fascinating character.  Tituba's ethnic origin is disputed since the Puritans did not make clear distinctions between African and Native American slaves but in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, Maryse Conde developed a feminist re-interpretation of the story placing Tituba in the same jail cell with Hester Prynne, the adultress from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter.

 À Bientôt

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Love and Casketball

"Give me an M!"

Most of the school had turned out for the first casketball game of the season.  The exotic new girl, Robecka Steam

seems to have made friends with Llorona Samedi.

They sat together on the end of the top bleacher while Llorona's younger sister, Pomba Gira exhorted the crowd -- "Give me an O!"

Shenzi Demeter watched intently.  Although she comes from a long line of Roma fortunetellers, she was not able to forecast the outcome of the game.

Next to Shenzi sat Mei Long, daughter Tian Long, the celestial dragon.

"Give me an N!" cried Pomba Gira

Rumor has it that Mei and Frankie Stein are an item 

However Cleo de Nile who sat next to them through the whole game saw no evidence to confirm it.

There were some well-established couples sitting in the front row.  True to his feline nature, Uturuncu obviously has a taste for seafood.  He finds Padmavati the sea creature irresistable.

"Give me an S!" shouted Pomba Gira as Claude Garoul and Nefera de Nile looked on.

Nefera kept her arm possessively wrapped around Claude's waist the whole game.

"Give me a T!" but Draculara tried her best not to look in that direction.

She still wasn't over the break-up with Claude.

Claudine had begged off early from her shift at the Coffin Bean cafe so that she could support her BFF in her time of need.

Yet Draculara remained wistful and forlorn.

"Give me an E!  Give me an R" yelled Pomba Gira when star center Rocky Goyle scored another goal.

Personally Claudine couldn't see what her brother saw in that mummified heifer.

But then, she couldn't see what Rocky saw in boney old Pomba Gira either.

"We desperately need some more guy ghouls in this school," she thought.

À Bientôt

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Shinning Black Princes

Completing the first Limbe Dolls pour homme collection was one of my projects this summer.

Since I recently purchased hands for all my Power Team guys from Monkey Depot, they were eager to model their new togs.  While the hands are not the best complexion match, they are much better than the ubiquitous black gloves.  So without further ado I present my shinning black princes!

Simon and Andrew are launching their boat.

"Let's head for that reef," says Andrew.

"Why does he always get to set the course?" Simon wonders as he hauls on his oar.

But Andrew has his eyes fixed on the horizon.

"Do you think your mother would like this?"

"She'll kill me if I forget her birthday again."

Bakari only has eyes for the marchande.

"I really couldn't say," he replies.

Every Friday after prayers at the mosque, Abdul and Dawud repair to their favorite cafe. They play a game to see who can quote the most verses by Islamic poets.

"A stone I died and rose again a plant," challenges Abdul.

"A plant I died and rose an animal," replies Dawud, picking up the next verse of Rumi's famous poem.

"I died an animal and was born a man," Abdul continues.

"Why should I fear?  What have I lost by death?" Dawud concludes.

"Everybody knows that one.  You'll have to do better than that to beat me."

"Hurry up coz!  You know the baby naming ceremony was supposed to start at 3."

"I'll be out in just a minute."

Karim chats with a neighbor while waiting for his cousin.

"How is your mother?'

Awa has grown up a lot since the last time he saw her.

Finally Amadou emerges from the house with his boubou folded over his arm.

It's too hot to walk across town in this thing.

I'll put it on when we get to Auntie's house.

The hopeful young prince has come to petition for princess Abena's hand in marriage.

"What are your prospects, young man?

"I am a hunter with the stealth and strength of the great cat who wore this skin until he met my knife."

"Come, walk with me and we'll discuss the bride price."

Everything looks so good, Semmi finds it hard to choose.

Finally he settles on a hunk of cake.

But the diplomatic corps is burning up the floor.

The dashing Taiwanese consul has swept his partner into a dip.

It's going to be tough to navigate through the throng.

Fortunately the Colombian ambassador has a more sedate style.

Semmi makes it safely to a quiet corner and where he can watch the dancers without dropping his treat.

 It was truly an enchanted evening.  The Brittish ambassador was there with his new wife.

And I, Letty was there with my king man

 who treats me like a queen.

Now if I could just find such a debonair 1:1 scale prince for myself!

À Bientôt