Any minority who has felt the frustration of trying to find a doll that corresponds with a specific ethnicity knows the true meaning of futility. I usually switched between my Mulan Barbie (whose hair never fucking reattached), and hand-me-down Indian Barbies from the Dolls of the World Collection. (Because a bejeweled bridal Gujurati doll is really going to do a lot for a scrappy Sri Lankan lass who just wanted someone to grind on the Shang doll for a while.) Now imagine the same struggle in a country like Nigeria, where Barbies, especially Barbies of color, are not as readily available.
Nigerian entrepreneur Taofick Okoya capitalized on the huge absence of large toy companies like Mattel in Nigeria, making a popular and profitable doll which Nigerian children can actually identify with. He has launched the Queens of Africa range, which currently features Nigeria's three largest ethnic groups (Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa) with plans to cover more African ethnicities. According to the Queens of Africa website, the line aims to empower Nigerian and other African girls in their ethnicity and skin color:
A typical African child is told 'Black is Beautiful' but when she becomes an adult, does she really think so?
Girls have been handed white dolls for many years that has apparently exposed them to a lot of false sense of value, low self esteem and moral values , which leads to lack of appreciation of their colour and culture.
It looks like while he wants to address the diversity in skin tones (which will hopefully include darker tones) while recognizing the various cultures and their traditional dress, the dolls are still very slender, something Okoya attributes to kids' preferences. As we know, consistently promoting a single skinny body type can be harmful for kids, but Okoya does want to diverisify the body types: "For now, we have to hide behind the 'normal' doll. Once we've built the brand, we can make dolls with bigger bodies."
This is very cool news for the African country that is on its way to nipping at the heels of countries like Brazil and India in terms of development. While many developing countries are struggling to maintain a balance between the unfortunately inevitable consumer culture and a culture's traditional values, it seems the Queens of Africa line may be able to solidly incorporate both.
Images via Queens of Africa site