African Dolls Book Launch: Frank Jolles

African Dolls by Frank JollesSome 22 years ago a group of women at KwaLatha near Keate's Drift started making highly imaginative dolls for sale. Originally based on the small beautifully made beaded courtship dolls that had been a part of local culture at least since the 1930s they soon underwent a remarkable transformation. They grew in size and complexity, wore traditional Zulu clothes and beadwork and carried the everyday accoutrements according to their status: young girls, married women, sangomas, and dignified elders.

The whole range of village life was represented. The aim was to attract buyers by bridging the gap between townspeople and country folk, whites and blacks, by explaining their daily life and customs to those that did not know about them even though they were living side by side.

Today these dolls are represented in museums and private collections all over South Africa and the tradition of doll making is carried on by a second generation. Frank Jolles documented this extraordinary development at the time it was taking place between 1988-96 by interviewing the doll makers at KwaLatha on many occasions. The book is the product of their cooperation.

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