The two golliwog dolls up for sale at the Kaiapoi Collective in North Canterbury.
When Jacqui Buchanan was given two handmade dolls to sell in her North Canterbury shop, she did not anticipate a backlash.
Buchanan is the face behind The Kaiapoi Collective – a gift shop giving retail space to more than 60 local groups and individuals to sell their creations.
On Friday she advertised the dolls on her Facebook page.
“Beautiful, handmade dolls only two in stock,” the post read, above a photo of two golliwogs.
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Golliwogs are made from black fabric and have black eyes bordered with white, red lips, white teeth, frizzy hair and minstrel dress. They began appearing in the late 1800s.
A Human Rights Commission spokeswoman said golliwogs were offensive because “they perpetuate the sort of stereotypes that often underpin racism”.
The word golliwog was not used in post and Buchanan said she had simply admired them for the workmanship, including hand-painted clothing.
“They were just beautiful, I couldn’t wait to put them up.
“I didn’t think anything of it until I saw a message about it, then I just panicked – I had absolutely no intention to upset anyone … I’m Māori myself, for goodness’ sake.’’
It was up to an artist to decide what to create, she said, just as much as it was up to customers to decide what they wished to purchase.
As for the dolls, they were snapped up within five hours of being on display – an English woman bought them to send home to her mother.
Buchanan did want to identify the person who made the dolls, but she stood behind them and her decision to sell them.
She would not refuse them if one of the artists wished to sell them again, she said.
“We are all one, at the end of the day.’’
Buchanan agreed it was important to learn from history, but only with a view to moving forward together – not with the intention of erasing the past.
The dolls’ original creator, Florence Kate Upton, based the design on a black minstrel doll she played with in her childhood home in New York.
Minstrelsy was an American form of entertainment developed in the early 19th century which featured comic skits, music and dancing to mock people of African descent. Minstrel shows were largely performed by white Americans in blackface makeup.
Human Rights Commission spokeswoman said golliwogs were both “inappropriate and offensive” because they reinforced negative and insulting stereotypes.
She urged people to take time to understand the history and origins of the “offensive icons”.
University of Canterbury Māori and indigenous studies senior lecturer Garrick Cooper said it was “not OK” to sell golliwog dolls as they were a symbol of the racialising of black Americans through caricatures.
He said given the widespread knowledge of the golliwog and the racial connotations associated with them, deniability was not a plausible excuse.
The two dolls sold in Kaiapoi were replicas of Stitchbury Ltd golliwogs.
She stands three metres tall, a racial anachronism in corrugated iron. (Video first published in July 2020)
Carol Eastgate, who previously directed Stitchbury, said she made and sold the dolls for more than 20 years but stopped in 2013.
She was not happy to hear the dolls were still being sold.
“Times changed, peoples’ thoughts changed, they just were not acceptable anymore. I did not want to sell a product that upset people.”
The sale and use of golliwog dolls has often caused public outrage over the years.
In 2018, a Waiheke Island gift shop-owner faced backlash after claiming golliwog dolls she was selling were not racist.
That same year, Riverstone Kitchen near Oamaru also came under fire for selling the controversial doll.
McDonald’s Te Awamutu held a raffle fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House charity in which a golliwog was being displayed as a prize in 2017.