Representation matters

Taati & Friends, a proudly Namibian product, is uniquely designed doll range for the Namibian girl child.

31 July 2018 | People

Tunohole Mungoba



In 2015, Taati, the Namibian doll was born. This was after co-founder Christy Shakuyungwa spent some time shopping for a doll for her goddaughter, and she was not satisfied with what she found in stores.

“I could not find a proper African looking doll on the shelves in Windhoek. At the time, I was attending the US embassy-funded social entrepreneurship boot camp. I pitched the idea of Taati & Friends and I walked away with the first prize,” she said.

After some time, Shakuyungwa met up with Taati honorary founder, Onena Shivute.

The name Taati comes from the Oshiwambo phrase 'Tate a ti', which loosely translated means 'my father said', because she is dressed in an Owambo dress.

“My father said… I am enough, I am worthy, I am precious, whether it is my actual father or my heavenly father, the name resonates greatly with all of us,” said Shakuyungwa.

“The inspiration behind Taati is to bring forth a black, African doll that our children can relate to. A doll we wish we had growing up. To a little girl, Taati reinforces the message that we are beautiful just as we are and we are worthy.”

There are currently five dolls in the Taati & Friends range, after Shakuyungwa and Shivute realised they cannot just have Taati on her own.

“We introduced her to friends from different cultures as well, so she has /Khomes, her Nama friend; Mbahimua, her Ovaherero friend; Alicia, the Afrocentric friend; Ntelamo, her Kavango friend and Lesedi, the Tswana princess. Taati's friendship range will grow to include more friends,” Shakuyungwa explained.

The two ladies are also planning on introducing a male doll to the range. “Probably a Tangeni.”

Like any other start-ups, the duo experienced a few challenges, such as market access, for one.

“We also experienced logistical challenges at times, such as clients abroad who are interested in the dolls and being bogged down by couriers. In addition, we also struggled with deciding on whether we should outsource production or whether they should be self-made,” Shakuyungwa said.

According to the duo, Taati is important as she reinforces the lesson of self-love to young girls, who grow up feeling validated in their own beauty and self-worth.

“We want girls to grow up to become young women with a sense of self-confidence that is second to none. Taati believes she can become anything she sets her heart on.

“Also, Taati and Friends contribute to the conversation of culture and heritage, raising a nation of young people with a strong sense of culture and belonging that will surely take us far.”

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