Our Founder

"Sustainable African luxury is the perfume of life that is lived in harmony with nature."

 

Belinda Kǒkóèkà Bernadette Bassey Ephraim was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria into an Efik royal family and hails from a dynasty of female West African herbalists, 14 generations and counting.

During her childhood, Belinda was intrigued by the tribal adornment of aristocratic Efik women as they went through various ancient beauty rituals in preparation for womanhood and the rites of marriage.

Belinda’s journey in the mysteries of life started at a young age, in the royal Efik courts of Old Calabar Kingdom, Nigeria, where she apprenticed with her first teacher, her grandmother, a renowned healer and herbalist, who specialized in crafting intricate indigenous medicinal herbal remedies for use in divine beauty treatments.

The invaluable lessons learned as a young apprentice on the fine art of beauty, the therapeutic management of disease, and the healing power of traditional African plant medicines, would remain in her heart.

KOKOBERNA Efik royal court and theatre for storytelling and traditional entertainment.

Ephraim went on to continue her studies in America culminating in an MBA and advance her career becoming a successful Wall Street investment banker with Merrill Lynch Capital advising Fortune 500 companies on their merger and acquisition strategies.

After surviving a death experience, she felt a calling to journey back home to fully rest and recover. During her time there, she remembered that both her mother and grandmother had told stories about an ancient skincare formulation which her female ancestors developed centuries earlier but which required a laborious process to create. Since access to these remedies were not generally available to all, Ephraim would spend time in her home country researching, cataloguing over 400-years of her foremothers' remedies as far back as 1611, and apprenticing under the guardianship of artisan herbalists to learn the fine art of recreating these divine skin care treatments using traditional cold-pressed methods.

Belinda Kǒkóèkà Bassey Ephraim, Founder of KOKOBÉRNA

In identifying and refining the intricate composites of the bio-dynamic formulating process that was used; diligently researching the healing power of the indigenous herbs, nocturnal flowers, and medicinal bush plants used in traditional African medicine; and meticulously investigating clinical studies on each ingredient, the result of which was a combination of 65 thoroughly researched nutrient-rich indigenous plant ingredients and extracts with a proven record of safety and efficacy.

The seed of KOKOBÉRNA was planted and Ephraim's first formulation, the sacred crown jewel of the brand, HEALER’S GOLD™ Oil, was born. At first, Ephraim used herself as a test subject applying the oil daily to both her face and surgical scar. Almost instantly, she noticed the oil remarkably calmed down her eczema and made her dry skin feel silky soft. The oil also effectively repaired the pigmented skin tissue and significantly reduced the excess keloid growth. Then her sisters, her mother, and a few of her closest friends. The results were so dramatic yet consistent and the ensuing request to produce more and more was unending, so that encouraged her to consider commercial production.

The unwavering commitment to preserve her family's values and legacy, led to the laborious curation of the comprehensive heritage library of proprietary traditional African remedies that are also based on scientific research.

Today, the emblematic collection is made by our brilliant in-house manufacturing team and shipped by our shipping team. The skincare products come with an average of 94 per cent certified organic ingredients and the medicinal herbal tea supplements are pesticide-free and contain 100 per cent certified organic ingredients. All of the ingredients are 100 per cent sustainably-sourced and traceable by KOKOBÉRNA. Learn more about our process.

A life-long learner and women's health advocate, she is a trained herbalist, product formulator, and aromatherapist; a certified holistic health & nutrition coach; a professional Jesuit Eucharist and lay minister; a certified Crystal Reiki Healer; and a certified Usui Reiki Ryoho Reiki Practitioner and Teacher - Reiki is a traditional Japanese spiritual healing system. Since 2008, Belinda has been exploring, studying, and practicing integrative and complementary medicine modalities to include both traditional and contemporary practices for almost fourteen years. Aside from her many lifetime pursuits, Belinda has worked and volunteered in a Level I Trauma hospital and emergency room setting, a pediatric intensive care unit, a cancer wellness center, an ashram, and a yoga studio. She enjoys deepening her interest in Traditional African Medicine practices, philosophy, religion, history, arts, and culture while exploring other traditional medicine practices across indigenous cultures.

A mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR®) meditator, Ephraim's formal meditation training has been under the guidance of extraordinarily bright, heart-centered teachers (Sharon Salzberg, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Sadhguru) in a rich school of secular meditation, centering prayer, Hindu philosophy, and Buddhist meditation. Her curious nature gives her the unique ability to intelligently connect disparate spiritual disciplines to create a thriving practice that has withstood the test of time. Her learnings sharing meditation comes from her own life experience where meditation not only helped her deeply heal (in partnership with her team of physicians) but catapulted her into manifesting a life filled with meaning, purpose, compassion, optimal health, joy, and awakening.

A global citizen who has intercontinental living experiences across Africa, Europe, and America, Ephraim enjoys designing the most exquisite treatments and curating thoughtful experiences that integrate the refined and authentic qualities of traditional and complementary healing modalities grounded in evidence based research.

From Mother Earth which provides a tremendously powerful materia medica, to the excellent quality of our bio-dynamically handcrafted products and the lasting promise they deliver, to the endearing relationship between the brand and its devotees who are discerning and expect the best; this is the KOKOBÉRNA way.

Welcome to the tribe and may you always be #kokobernabeautiful.