Did You Know?

Shea Butter

Shea Butter is a slightly yellow or ivory colored natural fat that is extracted from the nuts of the Shea-Karite tree found in the tropics of Eastern and Western Africa. It is the natural fat content that gives Shea Butter it’s unique healing properties, making it far superior to cocoa butter or other vegetable butters. Shea Butter comes solid at room temperature but quickly liquefies at body temperate for easy application to the skin and scalp.

How can Shea Butter benefit me?

Shea Butter provides relief from dry skin and many minor dermatological diseases. It has been clinically shown to provide other benefits as well. 

Here are a few benefits using Shea Butter:

Daily skin moisturizer (face and body) * Relieves dry skin and scalp while relieving itchiness due to dryness * Relieves skin rash- including diaper rash * Helps with peeling skin after tanning * Removes blemishes and wrinkles * Treats sunburn * Can be used as a shaving cream to reduce razor irritation and razor bumps * Heals small skin wounds * Soften tough skin on feet (especially heels) * Prevents stretch marks during pregnancy * Heals minor burns * Treats Eczema * Provides Sun and wind protection * Evens the skin tone * Reduces blemishes and scarring * Eliminates scalp irritation from dryness or chemical processing * Reduces acne (especially in combination with African Black Soap) * Absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue * Helps restore elasticity to skin * Restores luster to hair

How does Shea Butter benefit my skin?

Shea Butter nourishes the skin with Vitamins A, E and F.  Vitamins A and E help maintain the skin and keep it clear and healthy. They are particularly helpful for sun-damaged skin and help prevent premature wrinkles and facial lines.  Vitamin F acts as a skin protector and rejuvenator; it soothes and softens rough, dry or chapped skin.  Shea Butter easily penetrates the skin allowing it to breathe without clogging pores.  It is also anti-inflammatory, making it useful in treating rheumatism. 

How does Shea Butter benefit my hair?

Shea Butter provides moisture to dry or damaged hair by repairing and protecting it against weather damage, dryness and brittleness.  It also absorbs quickly and completely into the scalp to rehydrate it without clogging pores.  It is particularly beneficial for hair that’s been processed and heat-treated.

Black Soap

African traditional black soap is one of the most beneficial yet unheard of soaps you will ever find. It is made from dried plantain skins, palm leaves, cocoa pod powder and kernel oil for an all-natural cleansing process. Plantain skins are largely what make this soap so effective; it is a natural source of vitamins A, E and Iron.

African black soap has an organic shape with a soft delicate texture and a natural earthly smell. It is not oily and can be used on hands, face, body and hair.


What are the benefits of black soap?

Helps deep clean the skin * Works on most skin types including rough, dry or sensitive skin * Helps clear skin bumps and spots * Helps relieve acne, oily skin and other skin problems * Great for removing makeup * Works against premature facial lines and wrinkles * Can be lathered and used as a shampoo * Helps reveal radiant, fresh and healthy skin.


The Chewing Stick

Nature’s Niffty Little Toothbrush

The Origin of the Chewing Stick.

Once used by the Babylonians (3500 B.C.), Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, the chewing stick of old was simply a small wood "toothbrush" used in our predecessors' daily oral hygiene. Although Europeans once took advantage of this simple method, the chewing stick fell out of favor with them over three hundred years ago. Although the most common source of the chewing stick is the saltbush (also called toothbrush tree) in the Middle East, in West Africa, orange and lime trees are used, while the neem tree (neems) is the main source for chewing sticks in the Indian subcontinent. Astonishingly, nearly three hundred different species of trees and shrubs in East Africa are used in making chewing sticks!

Chewing Stick Usage

Through Africa or Asia, you may come across people casually chewing on a stick much like people may have a toothpick in their mouth. The twigs are generally cut to a thickness of a pencil; and are chewed until the end of the stick frays. The frayed end works like dental floss cleaning in between teeth keeping teeth and gums healthy. Once the end of a chew stick is frayed it can be rubbed on teeth, much like using


a toothbrush, scrubbing food and plaque off teeth. Chew sticks are much less expensive than traditional western toothbrushes making them much more accessible. In Senegal, they are known as sothiou meaning to clean in the Wolof language and other parts of Eastern Africa. It is also known as the mswaki meaning "toothbrush" in Swahili. So how does the Chewing Stick work? Simply put, when the stick is chewed, the fibers at the end become loose, thereby forming a rough brush. 

If you continued chewing, it loosens and dislodges particles between the teeth, which in turn stimulates blood circulation in the gums. Another benefit of the chew stick is that it increases saliva production, which in turn acts as a natural mouthwash that rinses away bacteria and creates an inhospitable environment for them to thrive and flourish.

According to Bella Online, research suggests there are inherent medical benefits in chewing sticks. The research points to the possibility that chewing sticks are full of medically helpful properties. Some of the medically helpful properties are things like abrasives, detergents, antiseptics, astringent, fluoride and enzyme inhibitors. Other studies have indicated that chewing on these sticks can be as effective as using toothbrushes and toothpaste to clean both gums, teeth, freshen breath (before and after meal time); and even are good for head and stomach problems. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the usage of Miswak because the tree itself has antiseptic properties and it is comparable to other oral disinfectants and anti-plaque agents used today. Another more modern use for chew sticks is smoking cessation. It is reported that using a chew stick may reduce the need for a cigarette and may also slow the potential for weight gain while one is trying to stop smoking.

"…studies have indicated that chewing on these sticks can be as effective as using toothbrushes and toothpaste to clean both gums, teeth, freshen breath…"

More than just a brush, it was discovered that the twigs and roots of certain plant species used in making the chewing stick, contain chemical compounds that slow the formation of plaque. In addition, extracts of other sticks have proven to possess antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. For instance, the twigs of the aforementioned toothbrush tree have been found to help prevent ulcers. And in Namibia, chewing sticks made from a plant known as muthala, inhibit the growth of pathogens that cause gum disease, tooth decay, and sore throats. Chewing sticks possess the ability to prevent cavities, as well as strengthen the users' roots and gums.

Chewing Sticks Usage Today

Still popular in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, many have come to realize the amazing benefits of nature's nifty little toothbrush for many conclude chewing sticks work as well as the traditional toothbrush of today. So much so, that these little sticks are available online for those searching for a more natural way of keeping their teeth and gums healthy. So whether you opt for the more traditional method of brushing your teeth, or the more natural yet antiquated method, why not give this cool little toothbrush a try.

***Note: Anyone interested in using a chewing stick should make his/her own necessary inquiries before usage. Exotique is not responsible for anyone's decision to use chewing sticks without research and/or advise from a dentist.

Source: Afrostylemag.com


Mudcloth (Bògòlanfini or Bogolan)

Mudcloth is a handmade Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud.It has an important place in traditional Malian culture and has; more recently, become a symbol of Malian cultural identity. The cloth is being exported worldwide for use in fashion, fine art and decoration. The technique [in making mudcloth] is associated with several Malian ethnic groups, but the Bambaran version has become best known outside of Mali.

In the Bambara language, the word "bògòlanfini" is a composite of bogo, meaning "earth" or "mud"; lan, meaning "with" or "by means of"; and fini, meaning "cloth".

The center of bògòlanfini production, and the source of the highest quality cloth, is the Malian town of San. In traditional bògòlanfini production, men weave the cloth and women dye it. On narrow looms, strips of cotton fabric about 6 inches wide are woven and stitched into cloths about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long.

The dyeing process begins with a step invisible in the finished product: The cloth is soaked in a dye bath made from mashed and boiled leaves of the n'gallamatree (Anogeissus leiocarpa). Now yellow, the cloth is sun-dried and then painted with designs using a piece of metal or wood. The paint, carefully and repeatedly applied to outline the intricate motifs, is a special mud collected from riverbeds and fermented for up to a year in a clay jar. Thanks to a chemical reaction between the mud and the dyed cloth, the brown color remains after the mud is washed off. Finally, the yellow n'gallama dye is removed from the unpainted parts of the cloth by applying soap or bleach, rendering them white.

After long use, the very dark brown color turns a variety of rich tones of brown, while the unpainted underside of the fabric retains a pale russet color. Source: Wikipedia.com

African Masks

In Africa masks can be traced back to well past Paleolithic times. These art objects were, and are still, made of various materials including leather, metal, fabric and various types of wood. African masks are considered amongst the finest creations in the art world and are highly sought after by art collectors. Many of the pieces can be viewed in museums and art galleries in many parts of the world. Masking ceremonies in Africa have great cultural and traditional significance. Latest developments and understanding of Aesthetic principles, religious and ceremonial values, have brought about a greater insight into the ideas and moral values that African artists express in their art. During celebrations, initiations, crop harvesting, war preparation, peace and trouble times, African masks are worn by a chosen or initiated dancer. It can be worn in three different ways: vertically covering the face: as helmets, encasing the entire head, and as crest, resting upon the head, which was commonly covered by material as part of the disguise. African masks often represent a spirit and it is strongly believed that the spirit of the ancestors possesses the wearer.

Ritual ceremonies generally depict deities, spirits of ancestors, mythological beings, good and or evil, thedead, animal spirits, and other beings believed to have power over humanity. Masks of human ancestors or totem ancestors (beings or animals to which a clan or family traces its ancestry) are often objects of family pride; when they are regarded as the dwelling of the spirit they represent, the masks may be honored with ceremonies and gifts. During the mask ceremony the dancer goes into deep trance, and during this state of mind he  "communicates" with his ancestors. A wise man or translator sometimes accompanies the wearer of the mask during the ritual. The dancer brings forth messages of wisdom from his ancestors. Often the messages are grunted utterances and the translator will accurately decipher the meaning of the message. Rituals and ceremonies are always accompanied with song, dance and music, played with traditional African musical instruments.

For thousands of years, rituals and ceremonies were and to a lesser extent are still an integral part of African life. The gradual, effects of parceled out territories to Colonial governments, and the ensuing damage to traditional economies followed by the displacement of huge numbers of people, by colonialism, resulted in economies and food production systems being wrecked. In general the vast number of people have lost some of its tribal identity and culture, hence masking ceremonies are no longer common place in Africa. –Source: African Masks History and Meaning (www.rebirth.co.za).