“Wah Gwaan?” Meet Toya, The Patois-Speaking Doll You Never Knew You Needed
Saffron Jackson is a prime example of what can happen when you pursue an idea that is not only good, but truly unique.
The teacher and mother became inspired to create a doll that truly represented her daughter and their Jamaican heritage. The 38-year-old Bog Walk native who resides in the UK said the dolls on the market were just not working for her. In fact, they weren’t even cute.
“All the black dolls I have seen were from America, and most of them were either ugly or not to my liking,” Jackson told The Jamaica Star. “I thought, why not create my own doll?”
Jackson’s doll, Toya, is the premiere doll of her Zuree doll line, which she says is around to ensure children of diverse ethnicities are represented on the doll market. But Toya isn’t just any doll. She speaks patois (or patwa):
In case it’s unclear, the doll says, “Wah gwaan? Weh yaa seh? Wha happen? Me name Toya, and me a wah Zuree Doll from the beautiful island of Jamaica. We have the best beaches and sunshine all through di year.”
With her big curls, big eyes and chocolate skin, Jackson wants to remind girls through doll that their culture and their beauty is something to be proud of.
“The idea behind this is to show little girls that regardless of their skin tone or hair texture, they’re indeed beautiful,” Jackson said. “Hence, the name Zuree. It come from Swahili, and it means beautiful.”
The doll and what it represents is resonating not just with the large Jamaican population in the UK (the Jamaican High Commission estimated in 2007 that there are 300,000 British Jamaicans in the UK), but all over the world. Since the doll hit the market in November and became available online, it’s been selling like hotcakes.
With an order of more than 50 dolls expected in Miami alone, Jackson told The Jamaican Star, her phone has been ringing off the hook.
On top of a clothing line for dolls, a Zuree Girls book series and a “Rasta-talking bear” in the works for March, Jackson hopes to get her dolls, Toya included, in stores worldwide. She also hopes to lower the price for them, as they’re £50 in the UK and J$7917 in Jamaica due to outsourced manufacturing costs to China. All in all, she wants to see Jamaican culture represented all over.
“People love that it speaks Jamaican,” Jackson said. “I’ve been getting sales from Australia, Estonia, Amsterdam, Germany, and all these places, which show there is a massive demand for our culture.”
If you’re interested in buying a doll, check out the Zuree website.