Binti

by

Nnedi Okorafor

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Okuoko Symbol Icon

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

The Binti quotes below all refer to the symbol of Okuoko. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Tom Doherty edition of Binti published in 2015.
Binti Quotes

“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.

Related Characters: Okpala (speaker), Binti (speaker)
Related Symbols: Otjize, Okuoko
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Binti (speaker), The Chief
Related Symbols: Okuoko, Otjize
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Binti (speaker)
Related Symbols: Otjize, Okuoko
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Binti LitChart as a printable PDF.
Binti PDF

Okuoko Symbol Timeline in Binti

The timeline below shows where the symbol Okuoko appears in Binti. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Binti
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
...Binti doesn’t look like a normal human Oomza Uni student, since she’s dark and has okuoko. Binti asks what okuoko is, and Okwu begins to jiggle its tentacles playfully. Binti laughs... (full context)
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
...the Khoush’s skin is the color of the flesh of Binti’s fish. They don’t have okuoko. Meanwhile, Binti is colored like the fish’s skin, and she has small but Meduse-like okuoko.... (full context)
Science, Humanity, and the Ethics of Research Theme Icon
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
Binti reminds Okwu that its okuoko is healed and asks if it’ll let her live in thanks. Angrily, Okwu says the... (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
...understand because she’s a master harmonizer. Binti brushes past this and notices that Okwu’s damaged okuoko is now healed. Okwu explains that they used more otjize to heal their sick and... (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
...drops into meditation and trees to calm herself. Her hair isn’t hair anymore; it’s blue okuoko like Okwu’s tentacles. (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
Science, Humanity, and the Ethics of Research Theme Icon
...The head professor let them into the case and the chief slowly held out an okuoko. The chief’s body changed from blue to clear as soon as its stinger reattached, though... (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
Binti weeps and washes her homeland off her skin. When she’s done, she touches her okuoko. They’re slippery and firm. Binti prays to the Seven and her parents for the first... (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
...realizes that if she can’t make otjize here, she’ll have to change. She touches an okuoko, ignores the tightness in her chest, and scoops out a dollop of otjize. After Binti... (full context)
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
Fear and Prejudice vs. Curiosity Theme Icon
...that she looks well; she looked like she was fading before. Okwu holds up an okuoko and explains that it suffered a burn during an experiment. Binti and Okwu pause. Binti... (full context)
Identity, Home, and Travel Theme Icon
Science, Humanity, and the Ethics of Research Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Belonging Theme Icon
...It says that they’re friends whether or not Binti has healing otjize. It makes an okuoko vibrate and Binti feels the vibration in one of hers. Binti is shocked and confused,... (full context)