Origin of African Black Soap

Posted on June 18th 2015 by Joanne Joseph No Comments

The name black soap is translated ‘Ose’ (soap) ‘dudu’ (black) in the Yoruba language of Nigeria, Togo and Benin Republic. African Black Soap originated with the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Togo and Benin Republic and in particular with the women traders who traveled across Africa selling the soap. Original African Black soap making began in pre colonial Yoruba land with the ingredients consisting of the ashes of plantain skin, water, cocoa pod powder, palm oil and Shea tree bark. This recipe has been passed down from mother to daughter for generations amongst Yoruba women in Nigeria, Togo, Benin Republic as well as Ghana and SIerra Leone. African black soap originated amongst the Yoruba communities of Nigeria and was taught to women across Africa.

The Yoruba community of Benin and Togo who traded pepper and tomatoes introduced Ose Dudu (African Black Soap) to Ghana and Sierra Leone and today the soap is being sold extensively around the world. Many versions of this soap has been created but the true and uthentic version remains in the heart of Yoruba women and their offspring living in West Africa today – including Ghana and Sierra Leone.

In Ghana African black soap is called ‘Anago samina’. The word ‘Anago’ is the name of a Yoruba sub group in the Republic of Benin.  African Black Soap is also called ‘alata samina’.  The word ‘alata’ is a Yoruba word meaning ‘spice’ and ‘samina’ which means soap is a Ghanaian word of the twi dialect belonging to the Akan language.

Yoruba from Nigeria women settled in Ghana and taught their children and many other women to make African Black Soap. Trading peppers and tomatoes took them across Africa and the West but many were intrigued with the potency of the soaps they bragged about and sold outside of Yoruba land.

These women became Pepper Traders. They’re soap became so popular they were known everywhere as the Pepper Traders travelling with their children trading  peppers , tomatoes and soap. They were quickly identified as the  ‘Alatas’ (pepper traders) and Alata samina was the term used to refer to them as pepper traders.  The soap became known as the ‘pepper trader’s soap’ (alata samina and anago samina).

In order for Yoruba women ‘pepper traders’ settle in and make a living in Ghana they had to teach Ghanaian women to make the popular soap. This was the deal struck in Ghana at the time. Yoruba women quickly became soap making teachers as well as soap sellers.

Today there are many versions of African Black Soap and recipes which include palm kernel oil, Shea butter, coconut oil and honey. Traditional African Black soap is still being handcrafted by village women in Yoruba land and Yoruba communities in West Africa.  The ingredients used to make the soap may not be as authentic.

Traditional African Black Soap from Yoruba communities contains original soap formulation passed down from parent mothers to daughter’s and sons using a traditional method to produce the soap.

The place of origin of African Black Soap is  Yoruba land Nigeria and Yoruba communities of Togo and Benin’s Republic.  The origin of African Black Soap is amongst Yoruba women who are still hand making African Black Soap in villages in Nigeria, Togo and Benin Tepublic as well as other Yoruba communities in West Africa and other parts of Africa.

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