The Black Dolls Expo

The Black Dolls Expo provides a platform for Doll-makers, Retailers, Collectors and Artistes to showcase their products and services within the local community. An exciting development has been the opportunity to link up with projects that are already operating in France, the USA and parts of Africa.  Other networking takes place at the annual Toy Fair, where it is encouraging to see an increase in the number of stands with Black dolls.

Each event features a particular theme which enables more in depth debate of pertinent issues that help encourage and emphasise awareness of the need to provide Black Dolls.

Next Event

black-dolls-2016Event: 10th Black Dolls Expo
Date: 2018 – Date to be confirmed
Time:  TBC
Venue:  TBC
Theme: TBC

For details: Contact Ama on 07964 403 031,  via our Contact Form or on Facebook at

At the close of the 8th Black Dolls Expo, I made the bold statement that it would be the last such event in London.  However, the option to put on something a little different was suggested as a recognition of the fact that Folk were beginning to appreciate the ‘service’ the Team and I provide.  Parents, Carers, Professionals and Participants (Vendors & Collectors) were assured of the fact that at least once during the year, a session would bring them together under one roof to ‘celebrate and promote’ Black Dolls.

A deliberate decision then was to return to one of my original goals of encouraging dialogue around the issue of the need for Black Dolls and, how we are to enable access to appealing, affordable and available merchandise.  For that to happen, it has been necessary to limit the number of Stalls and increase the presentations by those sharing experiences charting the pursuit of those objectives – including the views of attendees, both adults and children.

The 9th Black Dolls Expo – Back to Basics
For the past eight years I have had the privilege of meeting /engaging with so many inspirational individuals as well as a number of positive and forward looking organisations who have helped shape what has become an establishment; the  Operation Sankofa ‘I want one just like me!’ initiative, characterised by the annual Black Dolls Expo! The intention is to host a session which brings the focus back on what we can all do to improve the situation. The dedicated Team members and I hope to encourage discussions between all interested parties in order to find out where we are currently – providing appealing, affordable and available Black Dolls.

Expo 8:  August 2016 – Why Black Dolls?
Year on year the number of Doll Makers, Doll Collectors and Vendors have grown and word of mouth has spread the news about the annual event.  More people are catching on to the concept and show appreciation for the opportunity to access Black Dolls.

We have come full circle to the question which prompted me to begin the task of promoting and celebrating Black Dolls.

Parents and Carers continue to have difficulty finding ‘Black Dolls’ for Children of African Descent and the discussions deepen as awareness grows about the importance of such a resource.  The fact that store shelves in Africa are filled with white dolls almost exclusively, makes it imperative that Operation Sankofa continue with the initiative. As the number of participants increase we discover innovative talents that help to raise the profile of black dolls and related resources:  This year the event will host Samantha Knowles (via media link), who produced a documentary entitled “Why Do You Have Black Dolls?” (WDYHBD) and support the launch of ‘Nia Ballerina’ musical jewellery box featuring a black figurine.

This will be the last Black Dolls Expo in London for a while, at least in the present format, as Operation Sankofa seeks to expand networks in West Africa and continue to raise awareness around the need for Black Dolls.

Expo 7 – June 2015 – Black Dolls:  What’s IMAGE got to do with it?
Workshop:  In the past few years of ‘researching’ for the Operation Sankofa ‘I want one just like me!’ initiative, one major issue has been around people finding just the right kind of doll for their child; one that they approve of – a doll that approximates how they perceive themselves.  As people move towards representations of authenticity and the ‘natural look’, they want dolls that have kinky hair, natural features, darker skin tones/hues and even take into account the way in which it is dressed.

The themes provide opportunities for hands–on activities for both children and adults on the day as well as screening of films and follow-up discussions.

The flyers are carefully crafted so they provide positive images that may be displayed on notice boards and refrigerators alike, long after the event.

Expo 6 – September 2014 – What makes me beautiful?
Workshop:  Exploring ideas about beauty and how African People are portrayed in the media – magazines, newspapers, film and television.

Expo 5 – October 2013 – Celebrating our Sheroes
Workshop:  Looking at some of the less well known African Women Sheroes; as well as paying tribute and acknowledging important Female figures in our own lives.

Expo 4 – May 2012 – Identity
Workshop:  The importance of children knowing about their cultural heritage and, how that plays a part in enhancing their self-esteem.

Expo 3 – March 2011 – Participating in The London Black Women Festival
Workshop:  Collaborating with partner organisations to provide activities highlighting Women’s History Month which is celebrated throughout the month of March every year.   Exploring themes that show the need for Black Dolls as essential resource materials available to Girls of African Descent – to enhance their sense of self.

Expo 2 – July 2010 – Celebrating Black Dolls
Workshop:  People were encouraged to bring their dolls to share stories about how they acquired them and generally celebrating the range of creations presented.

Expo 1 – Feb. 2010 – Where can I find me a Black Doll?
Workshop:  Highlighting the problems faced by Parents / Carers / Guardians / Professionals trying to find and purchase Black Dolls for Children of African Descent. We were able to point people in the direction of stores, online initiatives etc.

Special Tribute to Dr. Abiola Ogunsola (1953-2013)

Sisi Ibadan and Kwaku - photo by Abiola Ogunsola

It takes a village to raise a child

From the inaugural event in February 2010, Operation Sankofa has hosted several Innovators / Artistes / Entrepreneurs – bringing their creations and wares under one roof to exhibit and sell.  All participants are encouraged to tell the audiences about their particular project or creations and to share their passion for these things that speak to the issue of ‘Black Dolls’ and the important role they play in our children’s lives:  A wonderful opportunity to celebrate and promote the unique resources within an atmosphere of communal appreciation.  So far we have had support from:

  • AfroToys – Siobhan Lecointe-Gayle
  • Les Poupees des Tropiques – Rosine Mondor
  • Muatta Books / Doll Collector – Rosanna Lewis
  • Ebony Eyes – Diane Patten (Doll Maker)
  • Yahw Arts – Ken Yahw McCalla
  • Crea3ptitzenfant – Monick Voltier
  • Margaret Oshindele-Smith – Specialist Doll Collector / Historian
  • Pauline Straker – Master Crafts Doll Maker / Expert
  • Glitter Tattoo / Inside Out 4 Beauty – Glenys Russell
  • Black Women in the Arts – Beverley Davis
  • Creative Lifestyles – Oleander Agbetu
  • Ligali  / Nyansapo – Toyin Agbetu
  • Dr. Ama Biney – Historian / Lecturer
  • Dolls by Verona C – Sandra Copeland
  • Angel Art / Rainbow Books – Carol Chin & Carla
  • Dolly Adams – Doll Collector Extraordinaire
  • Black Cinema Club – Dee & Jide Oriogun
  • Maa Maat Cultural Centre / Book Distributor – Bro’ Naa Pepukayi
  • Lela Ltd. – Rayo Balogun
  • Barbie Dolls Collector – Patricia Davies
  • ALT Centre – Nkechi Aligbe
  • Anaisarts – Anaisa Monteiro (Doll Maker)
  • Okuna Creations – Ornella

Plus new faces in 2014:  Gold Onyx – Jan Edwards; Kesheni Arts – Kesheniwa Aghaji; KofiArts – Alvin; Dolls by Verona C – Sandra Copeland; PrettyGirlzRock – Barbara & Kelly Nicholls; Fruitoflifesnacks – Lolita; Centerprise Books – Emmanuel Amevor; Ancestral Essence; Nyglorious Face Art – Nyomie McCook; I – CAN Project – Dwayne Patrick; Bino & Fino Cartoons; Positive Image Project – Denise Lewis & Flo Awolaja; Carivog International / Trinidad & Tobago UK National Pageant – Angela Cox; The Chess Academy – Richard Weekes; Natural November – Debrose; Artefacts – by Antonietta Torsiello; Spoken Word Artists – El Crisis & Asabi Hawah; Elsie Cullen (Drawings) and the Diverse Gift Store – Anita Thorpe.

Also special mention for – Oumou Gueye; Tango Books; Letterbox Library; BIS Publications; Regina Dale (Queenhealer – Doll Maker Extraordinaire)- USA; Helene Diouf – Boutique CAJOU – Dakar, Senegal; Linda Rollins (Doll Maker)– USA; Bernadine Jennings – (Dance Giant Steps Magazine) USA; Karima Abbott (ImagiNation Afrika) Senegal; Rooti Dolls UK – John Ngoforo; Debbie Garret – (Doll Collector / Writer) USA; Sweetbrown Kidsworld (Dakar, Senegal) – Sister Etuma

Operation Sankofa is grateful for the ongoing support of ‘The Teams’ – Family, Friends and Colleagues who come together each year to create inspiring settings for folk of all ages to participate in the Black Dolls Expo!

From 2009 – 2015 – Many thanks:

Tafara Dodzo, Daniel Anim-Kwapong, Akaliza Gara, Leeto Thale, Kwaku Gueye, Natasha Atterbury, Anthony McIntosh, Sharon Grandison, Jennifer Tyson, Pape Gueye, Mareme Mufwoko, Paul Amoo, Daba Gueye, Zeyna Fall-Mbacke, Barbara Nassolo, Ama Biney, Hlabera Chirwa, Joyce Grandison, Aisha Phoenix, Noreen Howard, Neferatiti Ife, Shirley Doyle (Website designer) and Nathan Dodzo.