When Saffron Jackson went to buy her daughter a doll, she was frustrated at the dearth of options for black girls. So Jackson, a 38-year-old Jamaican teacher who resides in the United Kingdom, decided to make her own: Toya, the first Jamaican Patois-speaking doll on the market and the first of Jackson's Zuree Doll line.
"The idea behind this is to show little girls that regardless of their skin tone or hair texture, they're indeed beautiful," she told the Jamaica Star. "Hence, the name Zuree. It come from Swahili, and it means beautiful."
According to the backstory Jackson created for Toya, she's "a confident and beautiful young girl" who recently moved to the U.K. from Jamaica. She's voiced by a Kingston girl named Kristina, according to the Atlanta Black Star, and speaks cheerful Patois when her stomach is squeezed. (Listen here.)
"Wah gwaan? Weh yaa seh?" the doll says. "Me name Toya, and me a wah Zuree Doll from the beautiful island of Jamaica."
Since making Toya available in late November, Jackson has seen sales explode, she told the Star: "People love that it speaks Jamaican," she explained. "I've been getting sales from Australia, Estonia, Amsterdam, Germany and all these places, which show there is a massive demand for our culture."
Toya is on the pricey side — around $60, which is more reasonable than, say, an American Girl Doll, which cost around $115. But, as the Star pointed out, their price is on the high side for average Jamaicans, and Jackson hopes to bring it down in the future.
Currently, Toya is the only Zuree Dolls product available, but Jackson plans to introduce more dolls, which can be viewed on the Zuree Dolls website. She is also working on a clothing line for the dolls, and a Zuree Girls book series, the first installment of which is already available.