Saila Qilavvaq dolls make their entrance
“These dolls are very wholesome"
Meet Saila Qilavvaq.
She’s an average 10-year-old Inuit girl: she lives in Iqaluit and she loves country food, pizza and camping with her family.
The only thing that sets her apart from other girls in Nunavut’s capital is her less-than-average height — Saila is only 45 cm (18 inches) high.
She’s the newest member of the Maplelea Girls, a line of Canadian dolls that aim to capture the country’s different regions and cultures.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since Maplelea’s Saila girl was launched, but Kathryn Morton, the company’s president and owner, says it has already shipped about two dozen dolls to Nunavut and more across the country.
Now Morton hopes Saila will become a positive role model for Inuit and non-Inuit girls across the country.
“These dolls are very wholesome,” Morton said of the Maplelea Girls line. “They don’t act like teenagers. They’re meant to be an accurate reflection of a 10-year-old girl. They ride ponies, they play soccer and go to school.”
The dolls are also Canadian-themed and they’re made specifically for the Canadian market, because the company aims to try and represent girls from across the country, she said.
Saila joins five other Maplelea girls who come from east to west, from a community in the Rocky Mountains to a Manitoba farm, downtown Toronto, Quebec City and a fishing village in Nova Scotia.
When the company asked its customers where its next girl should come from, Morton said customers wanted to see a doll that represented Canada’s North.
So Morton and her family travelled to Iqaluit last year to spend some time getting to know the community.
Morton’s most telling research came from participating in the community’s Christmas games, where she met and spoke to several Iqaluit girls aged 10 to 13.
“I was really impressed with these young girls,” Morton said. “They seemed to blend so easily into modern Canadian life, woven with going to camp, eating country foods and doing traditional activities. I felt like they had a foot in two worlds.”
So Saila was created the same way — her character speaks Inuktitut and English and sports a fleece vest, jeans and kamiks.
She comes with a 64-page keepsake journal in English, French and Inuktitut that tells part of her story, but also leaves rooms for her owners to tell their own stories too.
Maplelea Girls’ customers also have the choice of accessories they can purchase for their dolls.
For Saila, the company connected with the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts in Pangnirtung to produce Saila’s Pang hat and also with Kiluk Ltd. in Arviat to produce Saila’s amauti.
Saila can also be ordered with Nukilik, her aunt’s husky and its puppy Nanuq, who fits into Saila’s amauti.
“People are loving it,” Morton said.
She’s received emails from Inuit across the country, including former Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell, saying how pleased they are to have a doll that represents their culture.
Morton has also been approached by the Government of Nunavut to order the dolls for daycare centres across the territory.
But Saila won’t be available in stores because the company only sells its products online, to keep costs down.
Saila, her jeans, vest, kamiik and diary come together for $99, plus taxes and a flat rate of $9 for shipping anywhere in Canada.
You can also buy one at Cambridge Bay’s Arctic Closet shop, which has ordered several dolls.
Accessories are extra.
Visit http://www.maplelea.com to learn more.