A made-in Nigeria brand of doll dressed in African attire, founded by Taofick Okoya in 2007 is set to expand its sells to the United States of America.
The Queens of Africa (the company’s name) whose motto is, “Empowering the African girl child” depicts various African ethnicities, as well as variety of African hairstyles – afro, braids or braid extensions.
Okoya whose mission is to spread a message which enforced young black girls their self-esteem, enabling them choose a role model they can relate to, will travel across several cities in the United States, with his posse dolls to meet American clients, and further expand his company, Queens of Africa.
He shared a story of the company’s innovation. He explained:
“I got into the doll business by chance. At that time my daughter was young, and I realized she was going through an identity crisis.
“She wished she was white, and I was trying to figure out where that came from. I used to always buy her white dolls, and it never got to me that is was relevant which color her dolls were. On top of that, we have DSTV in Nigeria where children watch the Disney programs, and all her favorite characters were white.
“I started to understand why she’d feel the way she did, because it was all that she’d been exposed to.”
Okoya decided to create a brand of black dolls which was not found in the market at that time. The dolls’ body parts are manufactured in China, and are subsequently assembled in Nigeria.
He also empowered local communities of stay-home women who make money out of braiding the dolls’ hair and weaving the outfits. One of the women says it takes about three hours to braid a doll’s hair and the amount earned ranges from N60,000 ($300).
Features Of “Queens of Africa” Doll
Physical features of the dolls undergoes some improvement every two years since it was launched into the market, Okoya said,
“We’ve made the lips fuller, and the nose rounder. We also offer different hair textures, ranging from wavy to short and curly, as well as coarse hair.
We’ve given the body a bit more curves, and we’re planning on doing a fuller butt in the near future. It’s a way of showing also that “African” isn’t just one look. We celebrate both skinny and curvaceous women.”
Although selling his black dolls in Nigeria has not been easy, the entrepreneur noted.
“There’s still somewhat of a colonial brainwash present in the country, and store owners would tell me “Oh no, black dolls don’t sell, give us more white dolls” when I first presented them with the dolls.
“There’s somewhat of a bandwagon mentality here, where people simply follow trends without asking themselves why. They were used to dolls being white by default, so taking a chance with a black doll was quite difficult for them at first.” Okoya recalls.
However, his brand later made international headlines in 2009, for out selling the foreign Barbie.