Meet ‘The Queens of Africa’, Nigerian Dynamic Doll Line
The birth of the Queens of Africa doll line all started as a personal mission ten years ago when Taofick Okoya‘s daughter was going through an identity crisis. She wished she was white, and that got Mr Okoya confused and worried. He realized that he used to always buy her white dolls, and it never hit him how relevant the skin color her dolls were.
“It opened my eyes to the fact that all her dolls at the time and all her favourite characters were white, and looking in the mirror she doesn’t see the image she has as play tools or favourite characters.” That was the beginning of his project of empowering young African children by making dolls young Nigerian girls could identify with: one with their skin color and traditional African fashion.
However, his idea wasn’t immediately accepted. Taofick spent about two years campaigning on the importance and benefits of dolls in the African likeness. During that process, he realized greater social issues such as low self esteem was prevalent in the people because, there was still somewhat of a colonial brainwash with the people which didn’t allow store owners accept the dolls at first. They were used to dolls being white by default and that led to the passion to make a change in the coming generation.
We will do our best to represent as much of the diversity of Africans but surely not all at once. Some people have critiqued us quite harshly from an ignorant standpoint, forgetting we are relatively quite young. The responsibility to represent Africa in a doll or product is not an easy task. Our diversity is one of our greatest attributes
The responsibility to represent Africa in a doll has been a daunting task. He has had to tweak the looks of the dolls to get acceptance and improve sales to sustain the project. The generalization that Africans all have to look a certain way or be a certain color was in the beginning frustrating. “We will do our best to represent as much of the diversity of Africans but surely not all at once. Some people have critiqued us quite harshly from an ignorant standpoint, forgetting we are relatively quite young. The responsibility to represent Africa in a doll or product is not an easy task. Our diversity is one of our greatest attributes.”Taofick shares.
Seven years after the brand inception, Taofick made international headlines for outselling Mattel’s Barbie in Nigeria (selling between 6000 and 9000 dolls a month) according to Reuters reports. The dolls presently on the market are inspired by three large ethnic groups in Nigeria. Taofick’s goal, however, is to go global, ensuring that women across the world find representation.
Okoya created two lines of dolls, particularly because the doll culture is something Nigerians consider to be for the privileged and upper class. The first line was the Queens of Africa dolls which come with three outfits, four accessories, and cost 1,300 to 3,500 naira, or $6.75 to $18.18 were a bit too expensive for the average Nigerian so, he launched the more affordable Naija Princesses series which come with two outfits, two accessories, and cost 500-1,000 naira, or $2.60 to $5.19). Each doll represents a different African tribe (Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa).The dolls’ body parts are manufactured in China, and are subsequently assembled in Nigeria.
The power of toys and play tools cannot be underestimated. It could be a greater influencer than we realize
Queens of Africa’s reach is global and Okoya says after Nigeria, the greatest demand is from America, Brazil, Europe, the Ivory Coast, and South Africa. But despite this, he doesn’t feel the brand has made it yet. The brand mission is to reach every child of African descent all over the world and using the doll as a symbol of pride, hope, trust and confidence by making them appreciate who they are as an African. For Taofick Okoya, the power of toys and play tools cannot be underestimated he believes It could be a greater influence than we realize.