Thursday, 15 September 2016

Now there is a row about golliwogs

in our state newspaper. Apparently they are "racist" and should not be displayed and...well of course you can imagine the arguments. There were some on display at the recent show I was involved  in. Adults remembered them. Children thought they were a curiosity.
Yes, I have heard it all before. I had a golliwog as a child. I also had a doll. Being a difficult sort of child I didn't play with either of them in a conventional fashion. I turned the doll into the train driver and the golliwog was the guard. 
The guard was actually the more important of the two. He said when the train could start going again. At age three I would explain this in a very earnest fashion - and I was absolutely correct. 
There was the golliwog in the Noddy stories by Enid Blyton.  I don't know what I thought about the golliwog there. I read Enid Blyton of course, most children did. You had to be a complete non-reader not to read Enid Blyton at some time - and I read a lot.
I don't know what I made of the golliwog. I suspect he was just another character.  I also had "Little Black Sambo" and "Epaminondas" - both of which would probably be considered as politically incorrect as Blyton's golliwog. They too were just characters to me. Perhaps it helped that my grandparents were friendly with a missionary from Tonga. He was, in my memory, a big man with quite dark skin. I wasn't in the least frightened of him though because he was a very gentle man who would hoist me on his shoulders and carry me wherever we were all going. 
And later of course there were indigenous Australians in our lives and, as children, we just accepted in them in the way that the Senior Cat had been brought up to accept them.  I remember R's children each had a golliwog - dressed like station masters. She, an indigenous woman of very dark skin, had made them for her children. Her husband was a station master.  Did she think they were "racist"? I doubt it. If she had why would she have made them?
From lecture's in children's literature I seem to remember that a "golliwog" first appeared in a story by someone called Upton. At first it is a fearsome sort of character but Upton's golliwog turns out to be a good and kind character - far from the way that many modern day critics have portrayed it. And aren't most golliwogs shown to be smiling? I suppose it is their anthropomorphic nature that makes them unacceptable. 
If that's the case though I think I'd rather have a soft, cuddly golliwog grinning at me than a hard plastic Barbie with a vacuous expression.

1 comment:

virtualquilter said...

I got into trouble for NOT making golliwogs by an Aborigine woman who became part of our family. She wanted dark skinned dolls for her dark skinned grandchildren, and the only dolls of any sort she could get were light skinned as golliwogs had been banned. So I started including a variety of skin toned fabric bodies, with assorted characters into my range of rag dolls ... and a pair of black fabric dolls with black curly hair became great sellers, and the dark skinned grandchildren loved theirs to bits, literally!