Nkemdiche, a Children’s Book of Folklore, Shows the Igbo Worldview in Hair and Beauty Politics

Obi Nwazota’s book, subtitled Why We Do Not Grow Beards, illustrates “an art of female beautification.”
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Nkemdiche: Why We Do Not Grow Beards.

Nkemdiche: Why We Do Not Grow Beards.

We are Ọkpara House, a new Chicago-based content, media and production hub with a mission to re-present African-diasporic culture through design, art, and dialogue. We are proud to announce our first all-ages children’s book, Nkemdiche: Why We Do Not Grow Beards, now available for pre-order.

Nkemdiche is classic African folklore 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. The book is written by Obi Nwazota and illustrated by Parisian artist Lucie Van der Elst. Chicago-based design studio SPAN led the cover design and typesetting.

Nkemdiche challenges and expands typical Western beauty standards by intertwining beauty and gender politics. 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 is a beauty of character that exudes confidence, boldness, and self-love—attributes that are lasting and more useful for accepting of ourselves and others.

The book and other media from Ọkpara House focus on imagery and stories specific to Igbo culture. The Igbo world is full of complexities that are rich and diverse in lore and textures which are beautifully illustrated in the book’s design, font, and graphics. 

Obi Nwazota by Okpara House.
Obi Nwazota by Okpara House.

Obi 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.

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“As creatives and storytellers, we bear a particular responsibility to create beautiful, meaningful, and engaging content that fills the void of cultural stories that normalize our right for inclusion and equity,” says 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: Why We Do Not Grow Beards.
Nkemdiche: Why We Do Not Grow Beards.

Nkemdiche: Why We Do Not Grow Beards is now available for pre-order at okparahouse.com.

Ọkpara House
Ọkpara House is a producer of Igbo content. Through art and design objects, prints, and various media, our mission is to harness the power of good design, dialogue, and academic research as powerful agents to stimulate, reactivate, elevate, and reimagine Igbo culture. Ọkpara House Publishing creates beautiful books that reimagine the rich and vibrant Igbo folktales. Spurred by a lack of representation, we create new narratives and assert control over our image and knowledge assets. We want to stimulate and normalize our story by connecting our present to our past. We are setting standards for African- inspired storybooks while making relevant our cultural assets on contemporary lifestyles.

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