There was once a Tokoloshe, her name was Pinky Pinky – she lived in the girls’ school toilets, sang a song that introduced her and told you about her parents. She’d then end the song by demanding you give her something. Thanks to Pinky Pinky, her choice of location and her singing – I've yet to feel completely comfortable using public toilets.
I first heard about Pinky Pinky when I was in Sub A (now known as Grade 1). She terrorized girls my age, demanding money or (as I recently heard) stole their panties. I think she’d also want whatever pink item you had on you. If you couldn't give in to Pinky Pinky’s demands – you were in big trouble. I don’t remember the details of what she’d do to you but what I knew is that it would be painful. Pinky Pinky was so dangerous she even made it into a national newspaper – although they used a blurry picture.
There were different stories told about how she looked – none mentioned a beautiful creature. Her looks were things horror movies are made of. I’ve never met Pinky Pinky and no one directly close to me ever had an encounter with this mean Tokoloshe but I believe she existed. And that is why even today I’m not comfortable walking into public toilets alone. Throughout my primary and high school years I never used the toilet during class time – the first time I did was once in matric.
It’s more than 20 years since I was in grade one but Pinky Pinky lives on, that’s how powerful her story was. I don’t know who created Pinky Pinky, when she was created and why they used her to scare girls. I was chatting to colleagues about this story and they all knew about Pinky Pinky – one was from Kimberly, another somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal and two different parts of Gauteng.
I'm thinking about Pinky Pinky because I believe there is a powerful lesson for communicators in this Toilet Tokoloshe story.
Let’s imagine that Pinky Pinky was created during a time girls were attacked in school toilets. The objective is simple – keep the girl-child safe from these toilet attacks. To decrease the number of attacks, the client (government) requires messaging that will encourage girls to not enter the school toilets alone. But one can’t cause alarm. (the public is not told about this increase in attacks)
The communication company then creates this Pinky Pinky character one night over pizza and beer. The idea seems ridiculous but they decide to try it. They won’t lose much because the idea requires minimal financing. They ditch traditional forms of communication and go back to the basics of Word-Of-Mouth. They even create a tune that accompanies this eerie character called Pinky Pinky.
Not once is the real danger mentioned. Girls like me hear this scary story and never enter the girls’ toilets alone. And just as we are about to kill this myth, they partner up with a newspaper we all know the market would see and have a blurry picture.
20 years later and the story lives. Maybe believing in Pinky Pinky saved our lives. Who knows!
These myths and legends are great examples of simple but effective communication.
This is how I've convinced myself that Pinky Pinky doesn't exist but a part of me is still hung up on the fear. Such is the result of a well told story!
Did you hear about Pinky Pinky growing up? Please share your story about her...