Asia

Soft Toy
1960s (made)
Asia thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This soft monkey toy is called 'Asia' and was made in England in the 1960s out of a pair of stockings. The monkey is wearing a knitted red dress and pink cardigan with a blue floral shirt.

Asia is one of a set of toy monkeys owned by two brothers in the 1960s. The toys were homemade by a teacher who lived with the family while the boys were growing up. Accompanying the monkeys are three exercise books, written entirely by the brothers, which contain information about an extensive imaginary monkey world that they created during their school holidays. The books have details about day to day life in monkey society, including political struggles, religious views, schooling and tests, cultural events, and the monkey justice system which featured fines and punishments for bad behaviour.

The books and the monkeys give a very unusual insight into the thoughts and concerns of teenage boys in the 1960s. The world they have created is complex in its political and moral structures, showing evidence of wider cultural influences. The books have captured the inner workings of imaginative play, something that is usually intangible and difficult to record, making the objects exciting and important records of modern childhood.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 4 parts.

  • Soft Toy
  • Skirt
  • Shirt
  • Cardigan
Materials and Techniques
The monkeys are made from ladies stockings stuffed with wool and nylon
Brief Description
'Asia' monkey soft toy wearing red skirt, pink cardigan and blue floral buttoned top, handmade, owned by Richard and Michael Jay Reddaway, British, 1960s
Physical Description
The monkey toy has four long limbs with ten fingers and ten toes and a long tail made from brown nylon. It has two ears, two blue buttons for eyes which are stitched in place with black thread, and pink stitching in a crescent shape to resemble a smiling mouth. There is grey stitching through the proper left ear; yellow stitching loops through the proper right ear and round a cream coloured plastic ring.



The monkey is wearing a red knitted wool skirt, a pink knitted wool cardigan and a floral cotton blue top fastened by two white buttons through thread loops.

Dimensions
  • Ear to tail tip length: 57cm
  • Arms by side width: 26cm
  • Skirt, waistline to hemline length: 10cm
  • Shirt, shoulder to hemline length: 13cm
  • Cardigan, collar to hemline length: 18cm
Style
Production typeUnique
Credit line
Given by Richard Reddaway and Clare Reddaway, in memory of Michael Jay Reddaway
Object history
The toy monkeys belonged to two brothers, Richard (b.1952) and Michael Jay (b.1956) Reddaway, who played with them throughout the 1960s. The Reddaway brothers had a collection of twelve toy monkeys; seven were donated to the Museum in 2013 and 'Asia' is one of five toy monkeys donated in 2017. The monkeys had a king 'Ando', queen 'Apex' and various extended family members.



The monkeys were homemade by Andolie Luck, a live-in teacher who resided with the Reddaway family in the 1960s. They are dressed in a variety of outfits made from different fabrics, some of which are African textiles. Andolie had family living in Africa at this time and it was possible the fabric was sent to Andolie by her relatives.



Accompanying the monkeys are three exercise books that contain information about the lives of the monkeys. The books, written entirely by Richard and Michael Jay, record the identity and activities of their toys and the workings of the monkey society that they created. Entries are recorded in census-like listings, longer pieces of prose and in photographs. Monkey life involved things like political struggles, religion, school, tests and honours, entertainment and cultural events, and a justice system with fines and punishments.



These toys and books reveal the role of imaginary play in the lives of younger teenagers and boys. Parallels could be made with role-playing games such as 'World of Warcraft' for the levels of complexity and strategy involved in the monkey society. There is also evidence of wider cultural influences on the boys' play, especially in the plays performed by the monkeys and in the political propaganda produced during the monkeys' election campaigns which involved Liberal, Tory and Communist candidates.



The two brothers both attended boarding school first in Cambridge, then in Northamptonshire and the monkeys and the books took up most of their time when at home in the holidays. Richard Reddaway recalls that most of the family's toys were homemade; they also played with sawn pieces of wood as building bricks, and the garden and grounds of their house were the site of dens and outdoor play.

Production
These toys were homemade
Summary
This soft monkey toy is called 'Asia' and was made in England in the 1960s out of a pair of stockings. The monkey is wearing a knitted red dress and pink cardigan with a blue floral shirt.



Asia is one of a set of toy monkeys owned by two brothers in the 1960s. The toys were homemade by a teacher who lived with the family while the boys were growing up. Accompanying the monkeys are three exercise books, written entirely by the brothers, which contain information about an extensive imaginary monkey world that they created during their school holidays. The books have details about day to day life in monkey society, including political struggles, religious views, schooling and tests, cultural events, and the monkey justice system which featured fines and punishments for bad behaviour.



The books and the monkeys give a very unusual insight into the thoughts and concerns of teenage boys in the 1960s. The world they have created is complex in its political and moral structures, showing evidence of wider cultural influences. The books have captured the inner workings of imaginative play, something that is usually intangible and difficult to record, making the objects exciting and important records of modern childhood.
Associated Objects
Collection
Accession Number
B.41:1 to 4-2017

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record createdMay 31, 2017
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