TOPSY TURVY (Zine)




About this Publication


TOPSY TURVY (2022) is a limited-edition zine that presents the second installment of The Black Doll series, a collection of non-gestural, digital images rooted in the aesthetic tradition of geometric abstraction. Appropriating original imagery of vintage black dolls for sale on Etsy and eBay, I have abstracted the dolls beyond recognition and paired them with their often-racialized item descriptions.

This new series is inspired by the two-headed, reversible, “topsy turvy” cloth dolls invented and handmade by enslaved African-American women for their children. One face of the doll was a White, European-American child, while the other was a Black, African-American child - both were sewn together in the middle with a long skirt. This unique design ensured that during play, the doll could be “flipped” from one side to another.

While the purpose of these dolls is still misunderstood, it is believed that this topsy turvy design enabled enslaved children to play with toys made in their image which could then easily be hidden (by playing with the white doll) around white folks. The Topsy Turvy series presents a wide collection of racialized vintage dolls from the 19th and 20th centuries and continues to explore how whiteness in America is forever linked to its black counterpart, and vice versa.

Order online at Stellazine


©Qiana Mestrich 2022 and Beyond!