Once upon a time, there was a little girl with a dark complexion and long, braided plaits, who used to wear many long and colorful skirts. The little girl wanted a doll, too. Fair-haired, red-haired, blue-eyed or Arabian dolls were on sale in the shop on the corner. They bore strange names like Barbie, Steffi, Ariel and Jasmine. The dolls had their own hairdresser’s, bikes, cars, baby pushchairs, and modern houses. They were doctors, models, princes or sirens. The little girl, whose name was Lulica and who lived in a shabby house, on the outskirts of the town, didn’t understand why none of the dolls in the shop window resembled her.
This may not be a real-life story, but the special doll, named Lulica, certainly is. It is an anti-discrimination doll, and was launched in Sibiu, central Romania, on the International Roma Day this year. Lulica is a doll who wears traditional clothes, specific to Roma women, has green eyes and long, plaited hair. The doll wears a red headscarf, decorated with gold coins. Dorin Cioaba, a leader of the Roma living in Sibiu, has told us about the idea of creating such a doll.
”We had the idea of creating this doll when we noticed the increasing demand for products specific to nomad and coppersmith Roma. I realized that we should promote our traditional Roma costumes, by launching a doll wearing such clothes. We’ve noticed that it was well received both by the Roma community, and by non-Roma kids. The doll bears my grandmother’s name, Lulica. She was a very beautiful woman, my grandfather took her away from her parents’ house without their consent, because they opposed their marriage.
There was a beautiful love story between Lulica and her husband, Baiculica. We thought that her unusual name would attract children. That is why we called the doll Lulica. Her features are specific to Roma women: it has long hair, traditional, plaited braids and golden coins sewn to her headscarf. We will soon launch another version of the doll, one with a traditional necklace made up of gold coins, called ‘salba’, and a textile bag, just like the Roma women used to wear. In time, we will create some more accessories for the doll, even a tent, which will serve as a sort of home, various elegant clothes, even a bride dress.”
The Roma who took part in the celebrations marking the World Roma Day threw wreaths of willow twigs in the waters of the Cibin River, to pay homage to those Roma killed during the Holocaust. This year marked the 41st anniversary of the first ceremony of this kind, which took place in London. Today, it is an opportunity to protest against discrimination of any kind. The peaceful protest took the shape of a doll. Dorin Cioaba has more on the Lulica doll and its launch.
”The first lot of 200 dolls has already been launched and now a much larger lot is under production. Roma women are sewing the costumes of the dolls almost around the clock, as we have never imagined that there will be such a high demand for dolls. So, we had to hire more dressmakers, from among the members of the Roma community. We are glad that we were able to offer them jobs: they sew many costumes, so that dolls may be available in all big shops, hypermarkets and specialized toy-shops. The doll was launched on April the 8th, the International Roma Day, and it was one of the highlights of our celebrations.
Many other cultural events were held on that day: Roma music concerts, dances and parties. All members of the community celebrated that day, in their own way. Those who like traditions best chose to spend the day within their community, others organized festivals in the countries they live in. However, the best way to celebrate was in the middle of the Roma community, because it is there that our interesting customs and traditions are best preserved.”
Why was it necessary to make an anti-discrimination doll? Here is Dorin Cioaba again:
”When I thought about launching this doll, I wanted Romanian children to have such a doll in their playroom, and make it easier for them to become friends with Roma children in real life. There is this fear instilled by mothers to their young children. They say: ‘if you do not behave yourself, the old gypsy woman will come, steal you and put you in her bag.’ Thus, children grow up with the idea that a woman wearing colorful clothes can only be evil. So in their teenage or adult life, they are reluctant to getting closer to such people.
This doll will be found in toy-shops and this can only be positive. Later in life, people will remember that they had such a doll when they were children, that there is a category of people in their country, which wear costumes just like the dolls they once had. This way, the new generations can build their relations with the Roma community on other principles. We will donate dolls to all kindergartens and daycare centers, because we want to promote our community, to show the young people who make up the majority that we have values and traditions, too, and to find ways to coexist harmoniously.”
Lulica, the doll wearing vivid colours, will become a friend for all children.