Golliwogs an 'English thing', store owner tells African-Americans

A golliwog for sale in an English store.
A golliwog for sale in an English store. Photo credit: Getty

A Waiheke shop owner is refusing to stop selling golliwogs, saying they're not racist.

Earlier this week comedian James Nokise noticed the store, Escapade Boutique, was selling the old-fashioned African-American caricatures for $46 each.

He took to Twitter to voice his displeasure, simply writing: "Waiheke 2018. Waiheke. 2018."

Store owner Kat, who refused to give her last name, told Stuff the dolls "started off as talismans in England... based off chimney sweeps, and chimney sweeps were actually white people".

She regularly explains to African-American tourists that in her view, they're an "English thing" and not racist.

"You just see the look on their faces and I get in quick and tell them they're not what you think… [There are] more important things for people to get offended about."

Race relations commissioner Susan Devoy begs to differ, saying golliwogs very much are racist.

"What was acceptable when you were growing up is no longer acceptable… I thought they were a thing of the past," she told Newstalk ZB in 2015, when a Hamilton supermarket got in hot water for selling golliwogs.

"I was quite surprised to hear they still exist in New Zealand."

Golliwogs first appeared in children's books in the 19th century. They were inspired by blackface minstrel shows, in which white people would paint their faces black and their lips red and mock African-Americans.

Their inventor, Florence Kate Upton, grew up in New York before moving to England as a teenager.

In 2011, rapper Big Boi of Outkast tweeted in shock to his millions of followers on social media when he saw golliwogs for sale at Auckland Airport.


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