A patois-speaking doll created by a Jamaican teacher is taking the world by storm and greatly surpassing sale expectations. Saffron Jackson developed the doll, named Toya, after becoming pregnant with her first daughter and now customers worldwide can’t stop purchasing the toy.
“People love that it speaks Jamaican,” Jackson told Jamaica’s The Star newspaper Tuesday, Jan. 3. “I’ve been getting sales from Australia, Estonia, Amsterdam, Germany, and all these places, which shows there is a massive demand for our culture.”
Jackson, who started selling the Zuree Doll line online the week of Nov. 30, revealed she has surpassed her goal of 400 sales during the holiday season and customers are still clamoring for the dolls, which are available in a variety of skin tones and hair textures. She even had an order of 50 placed from Miami.
“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 [sic] from Swahili, and it means beautiful.”
A video shared on the Zuree line’s Facebook page revealed what Toya says once her torso is squeezed.
“Wah gwaan?” the doll, voiced by a young Kingston, Jamaica, native named Kristina, says in part. “Me name Toya, and me a wah Zuree Doll from the beautiful island of Jamaica.”
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Touted as the Jamaican first patois-speaking doll, Toya dolls — also available in non-talking versions — are sold for $52.40 and come complete with a pink canvas bag for travel. While Jackson acknowledges the price is steep for average Jamaicans, the doll creator is looking to lower the cost. In the meantime, the toys continue to be made in China.
The dolls are just the first in a line of Zuree items celebrating the island’s culture. Jackson told The Star she also is gearing up to release a clothing line for Toya, as well as a Zuree Girls book series, the first of which is available now. Plus, a talking Rasta bear will be released by March.
Jackson hopes Zuree Dolls will become a staple of toy stores around the globe, enhancing representation for all girls.