Art doll

‘Inappropriate and disturbing’: Doll festival not sorry to sell golliwogs

At least two golliwogs were on sale at the Festival of Doll Art in Auckland.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

At least two golliwogs were on sale at the Festival of Doll Art in Auckland.

An Auckland doll festival has no plans to ban golliwogs, despite the race relations commissioner saying it was ‘inappropriate and disturbing’ to see them for sale.

At least two golliwogs were on sale Saturday at the Festival of Doll Art, organized by the Auckland Dollmakers and Collectors Club.

Club spokeswoman Andrea Blinman said she was comfortable with the dolls sold at the show.

“I haven’t really thought about it, they’ve always been part of the doll world.”

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Blinman said she saw no need to apologize for the golliwogs, and it was up to people “whether they wanted to buy them or not.”

“No, I don’t think I need to talk about it, it’s up to people whether they want to buy them or not.”

Race relations commissioner Meng Foon said there was no room for the sale of “tasteless golliwogs” in 2022.

“I would ask the people selling the golliwogs to remove them.”

The Auckland Dollmakers and Collecters Club says it will not ban golliwogs from its shows.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

The Auckland Dollmakers and Collecters Club says it will not ban golliwogs from its shows.

The golliwog controversy has been a recurring debate in recent years.

In 2015, Pak’nSave was forced to remove a golliwog toy from its shelves after a public outcry over the toy’s origins.

Pak’n Save said one of its supermarkets made an “error in judgement” when selling the dolls and apologized to customers.

In February 2022, the owner of a North Otago gift shop promoting golliwogs said the dolls should not be considered offensive.

“They [the dolls] are not racist. It has nothing to do with race,” said Dot Smith, owner of Riverstone Country Gift Shop on State Highway 1 south of the Waitaki River.

Smith said the dolls were made by girls from two tribal villages in Sri Lanka with “care and love”, and they could otherwise be prostitutes. Smith said she bought the dolls from a Sri Lankan woman she met at a gift fair in Australia.


It is three meters high, a racial anachronism in corrugated iron. (Video first published in July 2020)

Speaking then, Foon said: “People need to take the time to understand the history and origins of these offensive icons, especially if they want to make money selling them.

“The change in attitude can mean that practices that were once considered acceptable are now inappropriate and offensive. Golliwogs fall into this category because they perpetuate negative and insulting stereotypes that have historically been used to dehumanize and mock.

“They have no place in our community. We should leave behind things that no longer reflect the kind of people and society we aspire to be. We should, at all times, give nothing to racism.

In 2018, Human Rights Commission spokeswoman Christine Ammunson said golliwog dolls were created in the United States during “the Jim Crow era of racial segregation.”

“They are not harmless dolls and they never have been.”

The Auckland Dollmakers and Collectors Club had been in operation for over 35 years, having been established in 1983. Only one founding member is still alive.

Club members are usually either collectors or doll makers themselves.

Doll clubs were huge in the early 1990s when porcelain doll making was all the rage, but their numbers have dwindled in recent years.