Taofick Okoya is a 43-year-old Nigerian whose black doll line sells more than white dolls in the market. He revealed what prompted the creation of the doll line to be the big disappointment he had when in 2007 he pictured a doll with his niece in mind and went for a birthday shopping for his niece’s birthday present only to come out with nothing meaningful. Thus, after a shopping trip for a doll to present to his niece as a birthday gift left him empty-handed, the idea of having a doll line named, The Queens of Africa popped up. His doll line is not only beautiful but inspiring especially when you read his story below:
In an interview, the Nigerian entrepreneur stated:
I came up with the idea when I went birthday shopping for my niece and wanted to get her something that would be meaningful and also help with her development. I saw various dolls on display, and tried to rationalize how that will be of help to her development. At that point, I thought if they had African dolls she could relate to or identify with, it could have a positive impact on her. From that moment on it stayed in my mind and I started paying attention to the availability of African dolls, and realized that there were none.
Okoya is said to be selling about 9,000 dolls a month which according to reports represent about 15% of the Nigerian toy market. Amazingly, the Queens of Africa dolls are selling more than Barbie in Nigeria!
When asked if the doll line is filling any gap in the market, he said
The ‘Queens of Africa’ definitely fill a void in the market. I say this because the first reaction we got from retailers was resistance. They said, ‘black dolls don’t sell’. I then embarked on an educational campaign via various media, telling people about the psychological impact dolls have on children, and dolls in the likeness of the African child can have on them. It took almost three years for the idea to get accepted.
On impact of the dolls on young girls, he said:
African-inspired increase little girls’ sense of self-appreciation and confidence. When little girls play with dolls, they see themselves in or as the doll, they dress it in clothes they like and act out their fantasies. The more of their own likeness they see in the things they like, the more accepting they will be of their looks and culture
Okoya on his vision behind the dolls:
The ‘Queens of Africa’ characters are designed to represent progressive qualities such as endurance, peace and love, while developing literary potential in children as well as enhancing their career development for the future. The project is dedicated, through the use of books, dolls, comics, music, and animation series, to help empower children of Nigerian/African descent to be confident. The materials are designed to be fun and engaging, while it subconsciously promotes Nigerian/African heritage.
Although Okoya has experienced much success with the sales of his dolls, he has been denied permission to sell his dolls in big box retailers in the U.S. This limits Okoya to selling his dolls in only speciality brick and mortar stores or online.
This is indeed one of the significant ways to preach against racism, to cut down the racial stereotypes which still perpetuate society. These dolls no doubt help in making sure that the message ‘black is beautiful’ reaches the ears of the children of Africa. Taofick Okoya’s ethnic African doll, would at least affect one of the areas in society where white figures are still mainstay which is the toy market. The Nigerian entrepreneur, Taofick Okoya’s ethnic African dolls, represent Nigeria’s three biggest ethnic groups, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.