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Y’awa International brand is teaching African children to embrace their roots

From a tender age, it is important that young African girls and boys are encouraged to embrace their beautiful, authentic features and roots. Instilling that mindset, by becoming a mirror that reflects the beauty of African children, is a toy brand – Luvuthando Dolls.

Born and bred in Gugulethu (Cape Town) founder of Luvuthando Dolls, Yolanda Y’awa is a Songstress, Fashion Designer, Motivational Speaker and an HIV/AIDS Activist. The mother of two says that being a public figure affords her the opportunity to travel regularly in South Africa and abroad, as she is now based in the Netherlands with her family.

Her company, Y’awa International (previously known as Y’awa Creations) was established in 2003 whilst she was suffering from post-natal depression. She says that being a creative played a crucial role in helping her deal with her depression and that is how she found her niche.

Initially, her primary focus was designing and manufacturing clothing, but Y’awa later saw a gap in the promotion of self-respect and self-acceptance in African toddlers; thus the birth of Luvuthando Dolls.

The word Luvuthando means ‘feel the love’ in isiXhosa and is a portmanteau of her two sons’ names, Luvuyo and Uthando . The brand caters for all skin tones, hair textures and body sizes. Y’awa believes that black dolls are not a phase but a movement, so much so that her clientele is not only South Africa based but stretches to the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and Holland.

“I have recently got to experience two of my young customers opting for dolls with Afros instead of straight hair because for them (as little as they are) they want dolls with hair that looks and feels like theirs,” Y’awa says.

Amongst many of the creations at Luvuthando Dolls is the new Afro-Centric range which is designed to showcase the diversity we have within our South African tribes. Y’awa says that the aim is to teach South African children about the richness in their languages and cultures, including traditional attire.

With a growing number of black children attending Private or English-Medium Schools, many discard their mother tongue or view it as inferior. Luvuthando cultural dolls come with mini diaries that have common vernacular words and phrases (translated in English) as a means of keeping African languages alive.

“With this, the children will also get to share their home languages with non-African friends. The diaries also promote a fun reading experience,” Y’awa adds.

Ensuring that every child is accommodated, the brand also has dolls that represent people who are living with Albinism and is working on designing dolls with disabilities, as well as other terminal diseases like HIV and Cancer.

“Being HIV positive myself, it’s important to educate the youth about the disease in a tasteful manner since the main target market are the kids,” she explains.

Other future plans for Luvuthando brand include: a doll home furnishing range, a short stories book in which they hope to collaborate with upcoming South African authors, a YouTube doll series, a kids clothing line, and most importantly a Luvuthando Youth Centre in multiple disadvantaged communities.

For inquiries, visit yolanda_yawamusic or luvuthandodolls page on Facebook and Instagram.

~ Thabile Shange

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