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Alaffia: Fostering a Body of People

Due to the many requests for the ingredients of Alaffia's GOOD soaps, we have the ingredients lists available to download (PDF).

Dark Rye is an online magazine from Whole Foods Market that explores the realms of food, health, sustainability, design, technology and social enterprise. Get fresh insight from our mixtape of stories, recipes, creative projects and people — pioneers of unconventional who explore the edges of a creative life.

In this issue, Body, Dark Rye’s body of work explores the body through the lenses of exercise, grief, diet, suffering, yoga, death and more.

Feed yourself with this featured profile of Olowo-n’djo Tchala founder of Alaffia body care.

Fostering a Body of People

We get it. It’s your body and caring for your body cares for the self, your community and the vast interconnectedness of all phenomena. But if you’re using five or six different face creams, hair sprays, and cleansers that’s four or five too many because shea butter has been doing it all forever. Used for hair and skin care for centuries in Africa (and by Cleopatra!), shea butter has been Alaffia’s means of mobilizing Africa’s resources and its rich traditional knowledge into the global economy.

Founded in Love

In 1996, Rose Hyde of rural Washington State was posted to Olowo-n’djo Tchala’s hometown of Kambolé, Togo, as a sustainable farming educator with the Peace Corps. His brother moved her furniture — and drawn by the tales of this curious new stranger in the neighborhood, he came over one day to talk.

Says Olowo-n’djo: “I never left.”

For Olowo-n’djo, meeting Rose was a spark. He went with her to the United States and learned English. From there, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Studies with emphasis on Global Economic Systems from the University of California, Davis — quite the mouthful for anyone, let alone an ESL kid who had dropped out of school in grade six.

In 2003, Olowo-n’djo and Rose began a handcrafted shea butter co-op for women in Togo as a way of fundraising for community projects like setting up maternal health programs, giving bicycles out to help kids get to (and stay in) school, and planting trees. What began with 40 shea butter harvesters now brings together more than 500 women — a company that reconciles moral goals and a hunger for social change with soft skin and smart selling.

Read more about their start, their mission and the future they see for their girls in this interview with Rose and Olowo-n’djo on Dark Rye.

Shea Butter: History and Process

Shea butter has been used for centuries on the African continent and is completely enmeshed within the history and culture of the West African wooded savanna.

Shea butter is mentioned in almost all African historical documents, including a reference as early as Cleopatra’s Egypt, which mentions caravans bearing clay jars of shea butter for cosmetic use. Funeral beds of kings were carved in wood of old shea trees, and shea butter has always been a staple of African pharmacology.

Learn more about the traditional uses of shea and scroll through a pictorial overview of how wild shea nuts become shea butter for Alaffia products.

Has love or tradition shaped your life’s body of work? Do share in the comments below.

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