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The Story Behind the Namji Doll

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Dolls have long been a treasured plaything, talisman and display piece across the globe and throughout history. They’re among the earliest toys created for children, designed to teach care and help with the development of empathy. Every culture has its own traditional doll and throughout the centuries they’ve been fashioned from everything from wood to clay, soft versions weaved, sewed and knit,  stuffed with paper and grass.

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African Luxe has a gorgeous collection of dolls made by the Namji People of Cameroon. We have both centuries’ old artifacts and new dolls that are made using traditional techniques by our master doll-maker. The Namji dolls are a sort of fertility amulet. They were presented to brides on their wedding day to speed the chance of pregnancy. Men too would be gifted with them. Each would carry them around, as they would a baby in a wrap-style carrier. They are also handed down to children and become an honored plaything.

traditional namji doll split image

These beauties are hand-carved from African rosewood from a single block of wood. They’re adorned with all sorts of beautiful pieces – tassels of leather, fabric and metal strips, colorful beads, coins and cowrie shells. These adornments are said to give each doll protective powers that they bestow on to their owners. How wonderful a mythology is this to pass on to children?

Baby namji dolls

The detail that goes into making these is really something. I love their expressions, they do seem as one-of-a-kind as people. Grouped together you can’t help but think they’re sharing some special story!


namji doll 2

In the modern home, they make a fab table top display. I love having accessories around the home that tell such fascinating and rich stories. These are what make a house a home, what give our interiors a special voice and warmth.

Dolls – and certainly these – conjure up the magic  of childhood and echo the cultural voice of their makers and land.

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