If you thought the ‘golliwog’ was a toy banished to our less-enlightened past, think again.
Not only are these blackfaced stuffed dolls, now known by the more friendly monicker of ‘golly dolls’ alive and well in modern Australia, they’re turning out to be a hot Christmas item this year.
“Santa Golly Dollies”, made by a Melbourne supplier, have been spotted in the Westminster Christmas store in Geelong.
Owner David Nolan said he’d be upset if anyone was offended by the dolls, which the store rebranded as “golly dollies” after they came through from the supplier as “golliwogs”.
“Certainly no offence or racial overtone is intended. I understand the politics which could be associated with this type of product,” Mr Nolan told AAP on Monday.
“We’re certainly not going to pull the product. It is highly collectible. It is the bestselling product we sell.”
Mr Nolan said he had instructed staff to handle any complaints with sensitivity and to contact him directly if people complained, but so far there had been no complaints at either the Geelong or Melbourne stores.
“They never contacted me or came to the store and complained direct,” he said.
“We have increased our order of them this year, and absolutely we’re on track to sell out again.”
He said he understood there was controversy about the dolls, which are now considered racist stereotypes of black people, but said there was no racial offence intended.
“It’s a black doll in a Santa suit, that’s the way we see it,” he said.
A thing of the past
Golliwog dolls, styled after a character created by US-born author Florence Kate Upton, were popular in Australia and around the world well into the 1970s.
In recent times, the toy has become all-but taboo and associated with derogatory racial stereotypes.
As well as disappearing from toyshop shelves, the character was expunged from popular books like Enid Byton’s Noddy series, which in 2009 welcomed its first book in 45 years – without the golliwog friends.
But there is resistance to the trend.
Earlier this year, former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett was revealed to be the leader of the unofficial Golliwog Liberation Party.
Mr Kennett told Fairfax Media in February that the Australian of the Year, David Morrison, should stand up for golliwogs as part of his commitment to inclusion, diversity and gender equality.
“I hope he will give all golliwogs and golliwog lovers great hope that by the end of his term, golliwogs will again be able to walk the streets freely without being abused,” he said.
– with AAP