Two Cameroonian dads living in Quebec are bringing a much-needed representation into the doll industry. Upon realizing that many stores did not have Black dolls or they were either stacked at the back of shelves when shopping for toys, they decided to make their own.
The Quebec-based dads, Gaëtan Etoga and Yannick Nguepdjop, after doing a lot of groundworks and research, launched their own doll company, Ymma, in November, according to HuffPost Quebec.
The main aim of the company is to introduce children to the world’s diverse communities while they play with these dolls. Although the Ymma dolls are mostly Black and mixed-race, the daddy-duo say their products are meant for children of all ethnic backgrounds.
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Even for a big cosmopolitan city like Montreal, there were some obvious loopholes in terms of diversity and inclusion especially when it comes to toys, the fathers observed.
The dads did not want their children growing up with an identity problem. “We want Black kids to have toys that look like them. We want to inspire them, build their self-esteem, their self-confidence, and make them understand they are beautiful the way God created them.”
Children develop their social skills from a tender age. Ymma’s intentions are for these kids to embrace all races and be exposed to diversity from the onset and what better way to do this than through afro-loving and African print wearing Black and mixed-race dolls which retail for $20.
This is crucial because studies conducted in the 1940s by doctors Kenneth and Mamie Clark have shown that children naturally gravitate towards white dolls when presented with the two. A more recent one undertaken in 2010 reaffirms the findings of the earlier study, which should not be the case, according to Etoga.
Being Black or mixed-race should not make anyone feel unseen. That is why Ymma is on a mission to normalize what should have been normalized a long time ago, making sure Black and mixed-race children feel more seen and more accepting of who they are.
“I think certain parts of society dictate to them that their hair and their noses are ugly,” Etoga told HuffPost Québec. “But what we want to tell them is that that isn’t true.”
The dads are also paying homage to their native home’s culture through the names of the dolls, their natural hairstyles, and the traditional Cameroonian ensemble worn by them.
The names of each doll, Priso, Beri, and Sadi, originate from Douala, a town in their Central African Nation, where they are originally from.
Aside from staying connected to their roots, they are also creating wealth for the locals in their hometown as all the fabrics and outfits worn by the dolls are produced in Cameroon.
Etoga explained that the blue top pattern used for some of the outfits is traditionally used in Cameroon during large ceremonies. The black, yellow, and orange circular pattern ‘toghu’ used for some other outfits are also usually used by Cameroonians in the northwest of the country. The dolls come with outfits, but extra ones can be purchased and sold separately for $10.
Determined to make a difference wherever they find themselves, all Ymma’s packaging is done locally in Quebec to contribute to the local economy which has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We hope to see our dolls in every household in the world,” the ambitious entrepreneurs said.
“We want to be the reference for diverse dolls. It’s true we are a business, but it’s not just about selling dolls. It’s about change. Kids are the future; we want to make the world a better place for them.”