Lack of representation sees the birth of Nandikwa Doll brand

All SA cultures not previously represented by dolls are included

Mmule Ramothibe Ka Pityana with her Nandikwa Simply Beautiful dolls.
Mmule Ramothibe Ka Pityana with her Nandikwa Simply Beautiful dolls.
Image: Vukuzenzele

Not being able to find a doll that represented her daughter’s heritage and culture inspired Meyerton entrepreneur Mmule Ramothibe Ka Pityana to create her own.

In 2012, Ramothibe Ka Pityana went looking for a doll for her daughter. Despite visiting numerous toy shops, she couldn’t find one. Her failed search gave rise to the Nandikwa Doll brand, Simply Beautiful, to address the shortage of ethnic like dolls in the market.

“Representation is vital for young girls growing up. It shows them that there are women just like them out there, thriving and that dreams can be a reality. Representation through play, especially with dolls, is changing more every day,” says Ramothibe Ka Pityana.

She adds that it’s important for girls to have a toy that represents the person she is or hopes to be, be it dolls representing male-dominated careers, dolls with different body types or dolls with disabilities and from different ethnicities.

Simply Beautiful celebrates all SA cultures not previously represented by dolls, including Sesotho, Setswana, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Siswati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, African, Khoisan and Muslim.

“Many see her as a toy, but Nandikwa is far more than that. We use the brand to tell our African stories. Each doll has her unique story of triumph, hope, perseverance, dignity, ambition, resilience, confidence and tenacity through education,” says Ramothibe Ka Pityana.

While Ramothibe Ka Pityana couldn’t find a local manufacturer to make the dolls, their clothes are all made by local seamstresses.

The dolls are approximately 30cm in height and ethnic doll-related accessories, such as other clothing options, are available. They are also available with an Afro hairstyle, short curly hair and braided hairstyles.

“This is the fun part. To see and appreciate the versatility and uniqueness in the way children can wear their hair,” says Ramothibe Ka Pityana.

She plans to add to the selection of dolls, across different ethnic groups, and scale the brand throughout Africa.

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