Chris and Ada Ngoforo, a Nigerian a couple living in London, grew so frustrated trying to find dolls that look like their young daughters that they decided to take matters into their own hands–by designing their own African-themed doll line called “Rooti Dolls.”
The coupletold CNN that they have always been keen on ensuring that their daughters maintain their African heritage. Though, after realizing that neither could speak Igbo, one of Nigerian’s ethnic languages, they became concerned. Not to mention, finding toys that could better aid them in their efforts also became challenging.
“Over the years my wife and I have found it extremely hard finding real black dolls that can truly connect with our little daughters,” Chris says. “The dolls out there in the market are nothing close to the real image of a black child in terms of features and other attributes — they are either too thin, too light or chiseled-faced, and even the complexions of most of the dolls are kind of whitewashed,” says Ngoforo.
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Though the couple initially created the dolls of their own children, they soon discovered that their creation was an excellent business opportunity. They began mass producing the dolls and the idea took off from there. The dolls, which reflect women from 12 African nations, are programmed to speak several African languages and promote positive self-images.
Watch Nigerian Couple Talk About Their Black Dolls:
“We observed that over 90% of children born or living in the diaspora and millions in Africa do not speak or understand their mother tongues,” says Ngoforo. “Our research made us understand that the reason for this is not because our children don’t want to learn their mother tongues, but more because there are not many essential tools that can easily be both educational and fun at the same time.”
Here is a little background on the dolls:
So far, the couple has produced a range of 12 dolls from different African countries. Each one can speak a combination of languages, and each one has her own story.
Amongst them, there’s Nina, a “vibrant girl” with Nigerian parents, who “loves watching Nollywood” and can interact in the Nigerian languages of Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and Ibibio; there’s Ama, a “bubbling dynamic girl” whose “dream is to be a doctor someday,” and can speak the Ghanaian languages of Twi, Ga, Ewe and Krobo; and there’s also Keza, with parents from Zimbabwe and Zambia. She “loves adventures, reading and listening to beautiful music” and can communicate in Shona, Ndebele, Bemba, and Nyanja.
Ngoforo says the toys, which come in different shades of skin color, are designed to break down stereotypes and to provide a more accurate representation of black people.
The couple initially launched the line in London, but it has since reached the shelves of toy stores in South Africa.
“We believe that we own the kids of Africa that privileged to be the indoctrinated in their own culture, even though they are in Africa,” Ngoforo said. “Because, in Africa, we realize that most children have been drawn so fast towards western culture, which is all good, but, at the same time, we believe it is good for them to grow up with their own culture as well.”
The dolls are available online and can be shipped worldwide.