In 2007, Taofick Okoya, created a doll that Nigerian girls could identify with
43-year-old based his Queens of Africa dolls on country’s biggest tribes
They cost roughly £4.50 and aim to promote strong feminine ideals
A man who couldn’t find a black doll in the shops as a gift for his niece decided to take matters into his own hands.
In 2007, Taofick Okoya, 43, created his own doll that Nigerian girls could identify with by recreating their skin colour and style – and it is now so successful that it is outselling Barbie.
The doll, which is called Queens of Africa, comes with traditional outfits and accessories and costs around £4.50.
The dolls’ look is modelled on three of the country’s biggest tribes and aims to promote strong feminine ideals, like love, peace and endurance.
The doll is now so popular that, according to Reuters, it is selling up to 9,000 units a month – a staggering 15 per cent of the country’s toy market.
But the Queens of Africa aren’t just selling in their home country.
Thanks to the doll’s online presence, customers are coming from as far as America, Brazil and Europe.
Speaking to ELLE about his dolls out-selling Barbie in his native Nigeria, Okoya said: ‘My mission is to make the Queens of Africa a symbol of hope, trust, and confidence by promoting African history, culture, and fashion.’
One person that Okoya really hopes the dolls will have a positive impact on is his daughter, who, he explains, once wished she was white.
Okoya said: ‘I don’t believe Mattel sees the Nigerian market as a priority, yet their product has great influence on the psyche of the children here and affirms certain values contrary to our society’
He explained that even though they live in Nigeria, there was a lot of Western influence. He said: ‘[This] might have been responsible for her wishing she was white. It made me aware that I needed to make her proud and happy being a black African girl, and not limit it to her alone as this was a common trend among the younger generation. The Queens of Africa became a platform to achieve this.’
Unfortunately, Okoya has been told that he won’t be able to sell the dolls on the shelves of mainline stories in America and will have to limit his business to specialist stores.
But he is determined to see the decision overturned, he said: ‘I am looking to prove them wrong.’