ZULU LULU Series: Most of the work was done between 2012-2016. A few pieces are still available.
2013-2014 Zulu Lulu:
ZULU LULU Series
Around 2000 I came across a Zulu Lulu doll at a street market.
It stirred memories of a past childhood because in South Africa the doll was imported as an “affordable black children’s toy. “
Ironically Zulu Lulus were made in Japan. Here they were called ‘Winky-dolls’ or Dakko-chan in Japanese, (meaning ‘embraceable’). They had become a hugely popular fad in the 1960’s there, and were as a result, featured on the cover of TIME magazine.
The doll was invented by Yoshihiro Suda. The stereotype ethnic design of the character was explained by Japanese intellectuals, such as novelist Tensei Kawano: “We of the younger generation are outcasts from politics and society. In a way we are like Negroes, who have a long record of oppression and misunderstanding, and we feel akin to them.”
Zulu Lulus found their way to South Africa, eerily enforcing the view of segregation expressed by Kawano.
The paradox of the cute Winky doll and the underlying racial tension she conveyed, I found intriguing. As a result, I began this series of works examining racial issues through the (seemingly) innocuous doll.
As an aging, white, female artist, like Zulu, I too feel somewhat somewhat of an outcast from the art world which flavors the young, the beautiful and the black.
The Actual Paintings:
‘Zulu Lulu (le Blanc)’ (the white) looks at what happens when we adjust stereotyped perception. ‘Zulu Lulus – racially integrated’ explores the racial issues floating through media and real space. In ‘Zulu Lulu – blanc/noir’ (black/white) the dolls face each other. It seems like they are unable to connect. Furthermore, even their characteristic open mouths seem to express surprise and they seem unsure as to what to do next. Certainly a reflection on the current political status quo. Where to now?
Why the French titles? I have used French as a pretentious way to confront a contentious issue, both present and in South African history. (The French also ruled the Cape for a short period.) In other paintings I have the dolls in common situations – drinking tea for instance. Wanting to live up to their name and embrace each other, but instead grinning inanely in pseudo surprise. This could be termed a superficial approach to the intimacy they lack. All is sweet/cute. But is it?