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American Cruise Ship Passengers Outraged by 'Offensive and Racist' Golliwog Dolls on Sale at Port Market

Two women have been ordered to stop selling racist souvenirs in New Zealand after local authorities received complaints from American tourists.

As reported by New Zealand news website Stuff, U.S. and British cruise ship tourists demanded that Cathy Dalzell and Rata Steele, both working in the town of Picton in central New Zealand, take so-called “golliwog” dolls off sale.

The toys are traditionally made from black material with white-bordered eyes, striking red lips, white teeth, wild spiky hair and minstrel-style clothing. The concept was introduced to popular culture in an 1895 children’s book written by Enid Blyton, but recreations are considered racist as they perpetuate archaic and offensive stereotypes of black people.

According to Stuff, British and American visitors to the market in Picton said the dolls were “offensive and racist” and marred their trip to the town, which is located on the north coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

The Marlborough District Council asked the group that runs the market—the Picton Lions Club—to stop the sale of the dolls to avoid further offense. Dalzell and Steele explained on Facebook they would be allowed to sell the dolls until their stock was exhausted.

“We have been told that we can make white dolls but not gollys,” the women wrote on the Facebook page, which is named “Gorgeous Gollys.” They said they had been selling the dolls for five years, and added, “This is very sad as we are not selling them to upset people but more of a memory of innocent times when a carefully crafted colourful black faced doll was part of a fun, happy and healthy childhood.”

But the manager of Marlborough District Council's reserves and amenities services, Jane Tito, noted the ban was not yet confirmed and said permission for white dolls had not been granted.

“The mission of the market is to provide a local craft and produce market during cruise ship visits to enhance the visitor experience for cruise passengers,” Tito said. The council “does not believe the sale of golliwogs contributes to enhancing the visitor experience for passengers,” she added.

Earlier this year, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission sought to dispel the idea that golliwog toys are harmless items. “They're not harmless dolls and never have been,” said Commission spokeswoman Christine Ammunson.

Following the Picton incident, the organization’s Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt said the dolls “perpetuate the sort of stereotypes which often underpin racism.” He added, “Progress is about leaving behind us those things that no longer reflect the kind of people we are.”

But Lions Club secretary Katharine Overend said the group did not mind whether the golliwog dolls were allowed to be sold or not. “We're quite happy to have them there, in terms of the stall,” she said. “We don't want to dictate to anyone what they can and can't sell as long as it fits the criteria that we have for the market.”

“We meet with council on a regular basis and they have asked us to take action. They are absolutely welcome to sell any other sort of dolls whatsoever, but the council has requested that they not sell golliwogs anymore.”

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