Kente Mammy Doll
Frances Smith Foster, Emory University
(interviewed by Susanna Mitchell, April 2001)
I collect dolls, and I have this wonderful doll that I bought especially because she is a mammy doll dressed in kente cloth. Usually mammy dolls are in some kind of red and white with an apron, a bandana, a shawl. This one is a stereotypical mammy but dressed in kente and it gives such a complicated, and to me funny, message, that I said "I have to have this." The mammy doll is a very interesting and very complicated figure that people have recently been reclaiming as an image. For instance, artists like Betye Saar and others have redone mammys with accessories like machine guns -- there's a whole series of them. So when I saw this one in the kente cloth, I was trying to figure out, What is this? Is this some superficial or ignorant combination of two commercial things: kente's hot, mammy dolls are hot, let's put them together? Or is this really somebody very thoughtfully re-visioning what this image of this woman might be like? Is it like the ones in which they put machine guns in her hands or put her in a very aggressive stance to produce a different kind of sight? I bought her at one of the Auburn Avenue street fairs where there is a lot of pride stuff on sale. The whole thing to me was just so great. I love having her. And I have her there on purpose.