Okuoko represent Binti’s changing identity in relation to her new friendships. The word okuoko refers to the tentacles of the Meduse—as well as Binti’s thick, tentacle-like braids—and it’s the first word of the Meduse language that Okwu shares with Binti. Thus, through sharing this word, Binti and Okwu are able to start to construct their fragile friendship. Later, when Binti must put her edan down to show that she trusts the Meduse, she discovers afterwards that the sting from a Meduse transformed her braids into blue okuoko. As Okwu explains, this is an indicator that Binti is now part of the Meduse family. For Binti, this reinforces how much she’s changed over the course of her journey to Oomza Uni. While her braids once told the story of her family on Earth, her okuoko now tell the story of her acceptance into a new, intergalactic family.
Okuoko Quotes in Binti
“That is true, but what about your home? Will you ever return?”
“Of course,” I said. “Eventually, I will visit and...”
“I have studied your people,” she said. “They don’t like outsiders.”
“I’m not an outsider,” I said, with a twinge of irritation. “I am...” And that’s when it caught my eye.
I’ll never forget the way the chief’s body went from blue to clear the moment the stinger became a part of it again. Only a blue line remained at the point of demarcation where it had reattached—a scar that would always remind it of what human beings of Oomza Uni had done to it for the sake of research and academics.
I pulled my hand away and took a deep breath. If I couldn’t make otjize here, then I’d have to...change. I touched one of my tentacle-like locks and felt a painful pressure in my chest as my mind tried to take me to a place I wasn’t ready to go. I plunged my two fingers into my new concoction...and scooped it up. I spread it on my flesh. Then I wept.