Ntomb'entle: The Light of Darkness

Ntomb'entle: The Light of Darkness

Being a man, despite my sister’s failed attempts to make a gay out of me at some point in my childhood (due to her having been the only girl among four siblings and I suppose the oldest too), I have never been excited about dolls. That is not until last week Thursday, the 2nd of April 2015. On that evening, I bought my daughter a doll. The excitement was not just that I had bought her one, but what the doll itself represented; uNtomb’entle. This doll is beautiful, and just as beautifully dressed but most importantly, it is Black.

These dolls are not just Barbie dolls painted black but leaving their white appearance intact, complete with a cleavage, long blond hair and displays of crass materialism or the ugly black dolls one occasionally comes across. These dolls are African, from the hair to the way that are so beautifully dressed; completely embracing an African identity. I was excited because at last, here was a doll that would fit suitably to my little queen’s development, social and otherwise.

Crazy as it is, but nonetheless not surprising, in South Africa finding a black doll is journey on its own and a journey it has been for me. Sometime during December last year I received a package from my mother. The package contained gifts she had bought for my daughter who would be turning 2 years old in two months’ time. As is so characteristic of grandmothers, and their evidently uncontrollable desire to spoil their grand children, the gifts were plentiful and included items she would not need for years.

I was eagerly going through the box, not just for the granddaughter but secretly hoping to find a little something sneaked in for the son too with a surprise note. Instead I was confronted by 3 white dolls; the biggest of them staring me straight in the face as if knowing exactly what I was thinking at that moment and that was, “What the hell are you three doing here?”

That saddened me somewhat. Firstly, while knowing that these were gifts coming from a place of love, I was still going to dispose of them; uxolo mam’am. Secondly, the irony of how countless little black children are being psychologically damaged, unwittingly, through simple acts of affection by the very same people who love them so much; by showering them with these dolls. It’s uncomfortable to far too many of us but we have to face reality at some point that to give a black child a white doll, is to induce that child into a state of psychological maladjustment; instilling in that child feelings of self-alienation, that would last for the rest of her years and an inferiority complex to go with it.

Of course, that is not to say these dolls are the only things that create in our children a feeling of inferiority and self-alienation. After all, the entire socio-economic structure is systematically designed to achieve that end. Black people are educated into ignorance. So that even the so-called educated among us, do not feel educated until they’ve rejected their traditions, mastered a foreign language at the expense of our own, extricated themselves from African spiritual practices, rid themselves of their African identity and values, and have been assimilated into white peoples’ way of life; essentially therefore until they are white imitation zombies; imikhovu.

This “education” does not merely take place in the classroom, but in virtually every human activity we care to indulge in, from early childhood. In the early 90s, Dr Amos N Wilson in a lecture titled, “The developmental psychology of the black child” based on his book of the same title, provided a very insightful observation that when a society produces a lot of illness, that illness is a functional necessity for that society; just like when some families or relationships are sometimes held together by a sick person. To the extent that some family members would pull a person back into alcoholism (or other sickness) as a way of maintaining the family.

So too is the psychologically maladjusted black personality a functional necessity for the advancement of white society. In his own words, Dr Wilson went further to say, “...people don’t just drive you crazy for nothing, there is some benefit involved...”

The question therefore is how does black maladjustment serve whites? For what purpose/benefit are black people alienated?

In a nutshell, the maladjustment impairs the academic and social functioning of black children, which in turn means continued economic dependence of blacks on whites. It also serves to justify the political, social, and economic domination of black people by white people, such that white people who make up less than 9% of the population are able to rationalise their ownership of the absolute majority of wealth in this country and their command of more than 41% of South Africa’s total household income. While black who make up more than 79% of the population, have a mere 43% share of that income and virtually no wealth.

So the maladjusted personality state of black people plays a crucial role in maintaining the current system’s configuration. Ironically, the act of buying your black daughter a white doll is itself a manifestation of a maladjusted personality state as it serves to perpetuate that state. It is no wonder then that not only our children but black people in general, see white as the standard of beauty, and associate whiteness with social and economic status.

It should come as no surprise then when young adults bleach their skin, dye their hair blond, and refuse to speak their mother tongue even to communicate with their black peers. We should not be surprised also that, as soon as he/she makes some money, a black person would rather spend their money with white people rather than within their own community, or why we immediately question, without justification, the quality of an expensive piece of clothing sold by a black person but are willing to spend thousands more on labels by white people. This maladjustment serves the economic and social interests of white society at the expense of blacks.

Ntomb’entle therefore, represents an important step in the awakening of black people, from this state of maladjustment. Ntomb’entle reinforces in our children their sense of identity and self-love and enhances their ability to deal with reality in our own terms.

It’s also comforting somewhat that the ladies who are selling these dolls take their business very seriously. I ordered the doll (cash on delivery I might add) last Thursday which formed part of a long weekend (Easter weekend) and therefore it would have had to be delivered on Tuesday the following week. Due to urgency from my side, Mpumi Motsabi made a plan and delivered the doll personally on that very same day; at almost eleven in the evening. When she got there she still expressed gratitude for the business; talk about exceptional service.

Ntomb’entle is truly the light of darkness.