Okpara House, a new creative publishing company that explores themes relevant to foundational structures of Black African culture has announced that it will publish a children’s book titled Nkemdiche Why We Do Not Grow Beards.The book, written by Obi Nwazota, who is also the founder of the publishing outfit reimagined for contemporary lifestyles through collaborative work with artistes around the world, has been available for preorder since May 21 at okparahouse.com.
The all-ages children’s book, according to a statement by the new publisher, is the first in a series expected to “contribute to the ongoing preservation efforts of specifically Igbo (Nigerian) culture in the diaspora and beyond”.
Nkemdiche Why We Do Not Grow Beards is an African folklore that aims to modernise and normalise African imagery and stories in our contemporary world.
“There are major themes in the book like identity, natural hair, diaspora women, beauty, confidence, African (Igbo) culture, and the important stories we should (re)tell about ourselves. The fairytales and storybooks that I grew up reading didn’t have such rich representation and that is likely the case for most of your readers! It’s truly a keepsake that can be shared and enjoyed by all ages,” the statement said.
Illustrated by Parisian artist Lucie Van der Elst, the Chicago-based design studio SPAN led the cover design and typesetting of the classic African folklore tale that takes place in an otherworldly time and provides an origin story for the unique, beautiful, and creative ways that Black women around the world express themselves with hairstyles that we celebrate in our contemporary culture today.
Nwazota is an award-winning architect. He was formerly a designer at local Italian furniture staple, Orange Skin, and the proprietary owner of the short-lived but well-loved, Little Unicoco, an elevated Nigerian restaurant concept. All of his work seeks to bring forward cultural assets of Igbo culture and shine a light on its uncovered influence in popular art and contemporary design.
“As creatives and storytellers, we bear a particular responsibility to create beautiful, meaningful, and engaging content that fills the void of cultural stories that normalise our right for inclusion and equity,” said Nwazota. “Before our lives in the diaspora, we had a history. Largely ignored and forgotten, it is our aim to reinstate and make relevant our beautiful culture.”Nkemdiche challenges and expands typical Western beauty standards by intertwining beauty and gender politics into the tale. In this folklore, the beard is an instrument of power that becomes an art of female beautification which opens our mind to a “different” kind of beauty. It’s a beauty of character that exudes confidence, boldness and self-love –attributes that are lasting and more useful for accepting of ourselves and others.