At the 10-day annual Sharjah International Book Fair, held in the United Arab Emirates, the CEO of OkadaBooks, Okechukwu Ofili, urged African parents to be mindful of the sort of books they present to their children, because western fairy tales can mess with their heads.
Imagine a black child reading Snow White and encountering the line, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”. They will connect fair skin with beauty and it messes with their minds.
A lot of people in Nigeria bleach their skin and wear wigs, in order to try and appear more Western. And I believe a core part of that is because of what we start teaching our children at a young age. It is damaging for a child to read these books, which are full of fair-skinned characters described as ‘beautiful’, but which don’t look like them. It builds up.
If Rapunzel was black, she wouldn’t be able to let her hair down because her hair grows up. So I thought, ‘Let’s flip this story’. Instead of a castle, this character is captive in a hole. Instead of the queen saying, “Let down your hair”, she says, “Let up your hair”
His concerns about the negative impact such fairy tales are having on black children, inspired one of his best sellers, Afro: The Girl with the Magical Hair. It is a children’s story that can be interpreted as the African version of Rapunzel. If children are not exposed to their real selves, especially through the books they read, they will be greatly disappointed when they come face-to-face with reality.
They should be able to read about characters that look like them and bear their names.
Credits: The National