October 1, 2015

Festival updates

The African Film Festival

I love to bring exciting news, there's too much bad news out there.

I'm excited to announce the revamp of our new website at The African Film Festival - TAFF, check it out now at www.theafricanfilmfestival.org.

TAFF is a 501©3 non-profit organization, our goal is to give back to the independent African filmmaking community. We are creating greater exposure for African films, making them available in schools and public libraries in non-African communities. Never have there been a platform like this one, an international film festival focused solely on African films.

TAFF have been accepted by the Texas Film Commission! Told ya, exciting! TAFF is now part of the arts district of Plano, Texas. Our grand finale will be at the Courtyard Theater in Plano, Texas.

Film submissions start November 1st via FilmFreeway, find out how you can submit your films here. Watch out for deadlines for early, regular and late submissions.

Finally, we are launching The African Film Festival on July 4th weekend. What better way celebrate African independent films! Where would you be during this groundbreaking event?

That's all for now, stay tuned for updates.


September 16, 2015

Meet the maker of the African Barbie

The Queens of Africa Doll collection
Taofick Okoya is a man everyone outta know. But not for the reasons you might think (I mean when you think of his famous pedigree). This man is out to run the famous Barbie out of the market.  

Move over Barbie, it's The Queens of Africa coming through.

That's right! The Queens of Africa and now Naija Princesses where born out of a dire need, when he shopped around for a birthday gift for his niece, then all the shops carried mostly white dolls. Soon thereafter, he was confronted with the same issue head on when his daughter suffered from an identity crisis at 3 (that's how early it now starts people) asking her father "what color am I?" Then she had a "long face" when she learned she is Black, saying, "I wish I was white." Who can blame her when all the kids shows from Disney to Nickelodeon only feature majorly white characters and most toys are mostly slim and nonetheless, white.
Creating dolls that where not only black but African was not without its challenges, even African girls did't want to play with them, they weren't pretty enough, didn't look like the dolls they were used to and stores wouldn't carry them because there's simply no market for them (because not even the African girls would play with them... You get the gist). He did mention that at first, he did make more realistic prototypes to test the market with fuller figured bodies and traditional outfits. He realized that this issue runs deep, there's need for awareness on standards of beauty for Africans, especially the girls (not to rule the boys out), who are totally brainwashed from a young age and the unsuspecting parents who continue to feed the unfortunate cycle.

We had a long conversation on this topic so I'd let him do all the talking. I am proud to present: The Queens of Africa doll collection sold in major Nigerian outlets, online in the USA and the UK. Planned launch to stores like Walmart is soon on the horizon. So far the response is phenomenal, from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, you name it.

What I love about these dolls is what they represent, helping our young African girls to see themselves in the dolls they play with, as opposed to holding themselves to a standard of beauty that's never meant to be theirs, causing identity confusion in children as young as toddlers.Watching a little girl call herself ugly for not being fair skinned makes me weep. What parents don't realize is the role they play in such identity crisis when as adults, we hold ourselves to standards of beauty that is unreasonable and the kids are always watching. Plans are in the works to diversify further, these dolls to include many African ethnicities, different shapes and sizes, which would be more realistic than the standard already set by Barbie. Right now there's Nneka (Igbo doll), Azzezah (Hausa) and Wuraola (Yoruba). They can be adorned in many gorgeous ethnic inspired outfits made in the factory in Surulere. Each doll represent the queens of our past. Nneka is the running favorite among girls for being the fairest.

Right now the doll bodies are outsourced to factories in China and everything else, from the hair to the outfits are made in Nigeria. There are plans to change that with the growing market, to have every part of each Queen made in Nigeria. 

The Queens of Africa have been featured on major media outlets, to include Elle, BBC, US News and Reuters. There are not just dolls, the Queens of Africa have been characterized in books with roots in African history to help educate our Future. More can be found at www.queensofafricadolls.com. Queens of Africa educational and empowerment books can be found on www.amazon.com 

Check out my exclusive interview with company CEO over morning tea.


Images courtesy of Queen of Africa Dolls