Queens Of Africa a Nigeria-based company has released the latest line of pretty Black Barbies and they’re hugely popular and have impressively surpassed the sales of iconic Barbie. We all know that as a little girl, a Black Barbie was probably best thing we could’ve ever clutched out of our toy box. Since those days, other brands have created Black dolls in the form of plastic or a plush toy and they are all a part of a larger underground culture of Black doll collectors.
The Queens of Africa dolls were created eight years ago by entrepreneur Taofick Okoya. Okoya was inspired by the documentary Why Do You Have Black Dolls? and the brand EthiDolls both Black-owned businesses or testimonies. Okoya was looking to uplift Black children and have them appreciate their Black and African features.
His own daughter once sadly claimed she wished she was White and he felt this was likely influenced by the presence of too many White-only dolls and a media that promotes lighter-skinned preferences. “All the dolls in the house were all White, and I was like, ‘Oh, ok, that’s a problem.’ Because when you load a child with all this, it becomes an acceptable form of … how you should look. And so I thought, I want to use my dolls to teach Nigerian culture, African culture.”
The dolls (in a range of brown skin tones, head-wraps and ethnic hairstyles) come with a purpose and are based on the African tribes most prevalent in Nigeria. Starting with Nneeka, from the Igno, she stands for love. Then comes Wurola, of Yoruba, for endurance. Rounding it out is Azeezah, of Hausa, who symbolizes peace. She even comes with a #BringBackOurGirls sign, a touching reminder and plea for the 200+ Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped last year. Many are still trapped in Boko Haram’s extremely harmful territory.
We found Okoya’s faith in a business that supports the powerful stance of “Black is beautiful” so great and we just had to share! In America, we certainly have our bouts with colorism, especially in how women are treated, but at least we have magazines, movies and websites (like yours truly) that place the concerns and triumphs of Black people at the forefront. It’s harder to access such inspiration regularly.
Okoya couldn’t even find Black dolls when he went shopping for one, another factor in how Queens Of Africa came about. It certainly doesn’t help that one of the biggest African pop stars, Dencia, whose Cameroonian/Nigerian, too has been selling bleaching cream to alter dark and brown skin to a much lighter tone. In some of the ads for it, she nearly looks translucent, and its dismal for us to report that the cream was at one point a best-seller on the African market. (Thank God for stars like Lupita!)
Because of these negative suggestions that being or identifying as “Black” is something to be ashamed of or changed, having Black dolls and dolls of color, are so important for young girls to have. And the message of self-love is getting across in a language and platform they gravitate towards at their impressionable age which are toys.
We applaud you Okoya! Even the name is red carpet-worthy…Queens Of Africa!
Check out the dolls here. The brand is currently expanding! But be careful, you might become obsessed with collecting Black dolls!