Thursday, March 05, 2009

Barbie Turns 50 - Black Barbie Quilt by Kyra Hicks

Raise your hands if you played with Barbie dolls! Well, Barbie is turning 50 in the next couple days. I don't recall ever owning a Mattel Barbie doll, but do remember playing with Barbie and all the accessories over at a friend's house on Sundays after church.

My next encounter with Barbie came when I worked as a marketing strategist for Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments, specifically on the dear Miniature and Magic ornaments and, my favorites Merry Miniatures (I was on the team that created the Merry Miniature Cinderella Collection!). Can't believe I was paid to work at Hallmark as it was a magical experience to work on products that connected emotionally with people and with a terrific team of creatives (shout out to all the Keepsakes artists!).

I had a heated discussion about Barbie ornaments at work with my then manager (sorry, no details via such a public blog :> ). To deal with my anger, I came home and worked through my feelings by designing and stitching this quilt here. Black Barbie Quilt is based on the original Barbie doll. In the background I've painted repetitiously, "Black Barbie has no name." Appliqued is "Barbie, America's Doll was never intended for me." This quilt has been exhibited at the American Folk Art Museum ("Talking Quilts") in New York and, more recently at the Fenimore Art Museum.

What does Barbie mean to an African American woman or a young black girl? How have others interpreted this American icon from a Black perspective? Here's a few links:
So, has Barbie had an impact in your life? Have you stitched anything with a Barbie theme? Do tell! Enjoy!


knitmachinequeen (KMQ) said...

Wow. I really like that. I collect and dress black Barbie's. Oops Barbie isn't black but her friend is...remember Christy? I have more than 50 and they are all wearing either sewing or knitted garments. I'm going to check out some of the links you provided. Thanks!

Willa said...

I never owned one either. I had a black Chatty Cathy and a black Thumbelina, and a black Tiny Tears and then about 40 other black dolls. My mom would not allow white dolls in the house she said "You pretend they are your family and you wouldn't have a white kid and your dolls need to look like you." I used to enter them in contests and all the contests were by black groups and clubs but white dolls always won. :o(

Omega said...

Hi Kyra,
I just nominated you for the "Sisterhood Award". Thanks for all you share, your knowledge, creativity & sisterhood. (check my blog).

Omega said...

I never had a Barbie, in fact I had very few dolls. I can only remember one but think I actually had two. I never really cared for a Barbie of any color, now sure why.

Quilted Librarian said...

Kyra, Your quilt is so powerful as was your post. In addition to the Barbie's racial problems, you can also add on the unrealistic body issues she brings up. The BBC had an article about that:

Christine Thresh said...

Your post inspired me to put up pictures of my dolls on my blog today. I linked to your blog so people can see your outstanding quilt and check out all the links you included.
I was too old by the time Barbie came along so I never had to ponder the meaning of her persona.

Vanessa said...

Kyra, that was such a powerful post. I'm going to link to it from my site. Oh, thanks much for the link love. I had planned to use your quilt for tday's post any way.

The Barbie image can be very pscyhologically damaging for little girls, black and white, so it's crucial to keep her in perspective.

Little black girls suffer from that impossible body image as do little white girls and then adding the hair-skin color-eyes thing just makes it worse.

I had Barbie dolls as a child but the collecting bug bit me as a adult after Barbie had become ethnically diverse.

I make it a point not to give blonde Barbies with long hair to black and Latino girls under the age of seven.

Thank you again for your powerful quilt.

Barbie DressUp said...

I am kinda late commenting here but I must say that this Barbie really rocks. Love the new look!