What is AfroCentric: Just Because it's Popular and Mass Produced Doesn't Mean it's any Less African
Straight Out of Africa but Made In China
When our ancestors were brought to the shores of the Western hemisphere, they were summarily stripped of everything...their families, heritage, languages, religious practices and many other old-world customs. So often these days, we hear about how a particular product that African Americans are particular to, like Black soap and Kente cloth, is really not Afrocentric because of where it is mass produced. So, if it says, "Made in China," the Chinese simply reproduced the product for mass consumption, like so many of our American-brand products. As Africans in the Western hemisphere, we have to guard the sacredness of those things that are indigenous to the Motherland. Many of these products, if made true to their original recipes, take time and great care to reproduce.
Along with Kente cloth, other things that are authentically African include Shea Butter and Black Soap. Here is a little information on all these products to allay any speculation of them being non-Afrocentric:
This cloth (Nwentoma) has its origins within the Ashanti Kingdom and according to Africaimports.com, is a traditional cloth worn by the Akan tribes of South Ghana, as well as the celebratory garb of West African and Ivory Coast royalty. Kente is the cloth of Kings! With the bringing of slaves to the Western hemisphere during the Portuguese slave trade, the fabric made its way into South America and with the advent of mass production and revival of racial pride and reverence in the 20th century, the African American obtained widespread usage of the product. Its beauty and worldwide popularity has contributed to its mass production. However, in spite of all the hoopla over the fabric, it still maintains its sacred, traditional value to the Akan peoples of Ghana.
If one is keenly observant of bath and body products that are being marketed to the American public, there are a great many that contain Shea butter. According to Sheabutterafrica.co.uk, Shea butter is an authentic African soap derived from the African Karite Shea Nut Tree. The nuts hold the key to the making of the butter. The nuts are harvested, dried and ground into a powder. Water is then added and the mixture is boiled. The substance that rises to the top is what the butter is made from after it solidifies. This carefully-made soap was used in Africa for centuries to moisturize and protect Black skin from the hot African elements. It's perfect for alleviating a bevy of skin problems, including eczema.
African Black Soap
African Black Soap: Like Shea butter, African Black Soap (Ose Dudu or Anago samina) has a special recipe and an authentically traditional way of preparing it for maximum effect. According to Sheabutterafrica.co.uk, originally a soap comes from the Yoruban people of Nigeria, Togo and Benin. The soap is derived from an African vegetable called a plantain. For those of us who enjoy this delicacy, we know it resembles a banana, but it has to be cooked in order to be enjoyed. The skins of the plantain is where the Black soap is extracted from. The skins are dried to a precise point in the hot, African sun. Then, it is roasted in a clay oven under precise, uniform heat to obtain the right color, texture and smell. Some recipes use cocoa pods instead of plantain skins. Cocoa pods are also used to create cocoa butter, too. It can be used to cleanse hair, as well as body. When stored properly with baggie or Saran wrap, it will never expire, like most mass-produced, commercial soaps.
These products, like so many African made products are derived from recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next. Hence, they are centuries old and were created by native Africans in order to survive within their indigenous environment. Many skin care products and soaps that have their origins on the African continent are also good for people with skin hues lighter than our own. This is why Shea butter is becoming popular in mainstream, skin-care marketing. That makes a lot of sense, since Africa is the Mother of the entire human race! We human beings have much more in common than we think. Share your thoughts.
© 2015 Dana Ayres