Growing up, Mich had a little African doll called Awino. She went EVERYWHERE with her. I think she might have made it to school too. But she was beautiful, very expensive and Mich could relate with her. She had a soft body and kinky hair that you could comb, braid, and wash, just like Mich. I really liked Awino, she was the first doll of her kind I had ever seen and I was instantly in love.
I find that because of Awino, among so many other things, Mich doesn’t have a suffocating need to have long, straight, blond hair. She doesn’t have a need to be skinny. And most importantly, she doesn’t have a need to be lighter than she is. I’ve heard her on more than one occasion say, ‘I love my skin, I’m gorgeous’.
At the time when Mich was most open to influences, she had Awino whom she loved and who looked just like her. Awino worked exactly like my mum hoped she would.
So, in my personal contribution towards the African renaissance, I have already named all of Kendi’s toys. There is Akello, an African doll, Wangari, a brown teddy bear, Ogi (which is short for Ogwal- which means ‘frog’ in Dholuo) a little cuddle blanket, and my personal favorite, Rispah, a little white duck, that Kendi cuddles with to sleep. I set up that joke a long time ago- that one day Kendi will come to me and say,’ Mama, adwaro Rispah’ (I want Rispah) and I will laugh and laugh, because it’s so funny that a duck should be called Rispah.
When she gets older, and her eyes ‘open’ to the world around her, Kendi will see that one type of hair is valued above another, a certain color of skin is valued, a waist size, a particular height, but hopefully she will be intact enough to turn to Wangari and say, ‘who cares, we’re brown!’
Then, and only then, will I let her name her own toys.