Two women have been ordered to stop selling their homemade “golliwog” dolls at a New Zealand port market after complaints from overseas tourists who deemed the minstrel-like souvenirs “racist and offensive.”
According to New Zealand news site Stuff, the Marlborough District Council demanded the dolls be removed from sale after U.S. and British cruise ship passengers took offense and said the “gollys” were the black eye of an otherwise pleasant trip to the “Land of the Long White Cloud.”
Cathy Dalzell and Rata Steele, who were peddling the dolls at a local ship market in the central New Zealand town of Picton, said they’ve been making the souvenirs for about five years now. The knitted toys are typically made from very dark fabric with googly eyes, bright red lips, wild hair and minstrel-style clothing. As reported by Newsweek, the figures were first introduced to popular culture in an 1895 children’s book by author Enid Blyton, however, critics say the recreations are racist and perpetuate negative stereotypes of Black people.
The Marlborough council has since asked the Picton Lions Club, which runs the cruise ship, market to quit selling the dolls in order to avoid further offense.
“Not that long ago, most people thought it was okay to have children’s books about Little Black Sambo but most Kiwis [New Zealanders] now realize this is offensive and prejudiced,” Paul Hunt of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission told Stuff.
“Progress is about leaving behind us those things that no longer reflect the kind of people we are,” he added.
In a Facebook post, Dalzell and Steele explained that they would be allowed to continue selling their “Gorgeous Gollys” at the market until their stock ran out, adding that they would be able to sell white dolls instead.
“This is very sad, as we are not selling them to upset people but as more of a memory of innocent times when a carefully crafted colorful black faced doll was part of a fun, happy and healthy childhood,” they wrote.
Jane Tito, a reserves and amenities manager for the Marlborough District Council, said the ban on gollys hasn’t been confirmed and that permission on the white dolls has yet to be granted as well.
“The mission of the market is to provide a local craft and produce market during cruise ship visits to enhance the visitor experience for cruise passengers,” Tito said in a statement. “The council doesn’t believe the sale of golliwogs contributes to enhancing the visitor experience for passengers.”
Lions Club secretary Katharine Overend felt a bit differently, however, saying the group didn’t care either way if the dolls were allowed to be sold or not.
“We’re quite happy to have them there, in terms of the stall,” Overend told Stuff. “We don’t want to dictate to anyone what they can and can’t sell as long as it fits the criteria that we have for the market.”
The club’s secretary added that they hadn’t told the doll-makers what color the toys should be, saying, “they are absolutely welcome to sell any other sort of dolls whatsoever.”
“But the council has requested that they not sell golliwogs anymore,” Overend said. “We meet with council on a regular basis and they have asked us to take action.”
This isn’t the first time a New Zealand Lions Club group has found itself accused of racism. Last year, the Hawera Mt View Lions Club drew backlash after its Christmas float featured people wearing blackface, the news website reported. The group defended the racist costumes, saying they never meant to offend anyone.