Shea Butter And Other Secrets Of the Nile

Shea Butter. Image source:
Shea Butter. Image source:

I first tried Shea Butter during my first visit to Kampala, Uganda some years ago. It had come from the North in a small yellow kibui (jerry can), was quite liquidy in its consistency and was a dark sap green in colour. Also, it smelled. Not putrid, but the smell of that mixture a family member somewhat well versed in herbal remedies would whip up for you if you were sick. That nose wrinkling type of smell.

That particular batch had been prepared to be used more for cooking than anything else. Although I tried it on my skin, I never did eat food prepared with it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how well I’d respond to the flavour. But for the Acholi in Northern Uganda, there’s nothing tastier than it. Moo Yaa /moor yaah/. Moo meaning oil from the Yaa tree.

Traditionally, the butter was smeared on chiefs during initiation ceremonies and used to anoint warriors before battle. It was also rubbed on new born babies to protect their skin and induce deep sleep. For a long time moo yaa has featured on the tables of many households in N. Uganda and can be eaten with cassava or sweet potatoes. But the ultimate treat is a dish called dek ngor. A pigeon or cow pea paste (depending on who you ask) which, when mixed with the butter, is apparently pure heaven. It is also very filling and highly nutritious.

Food for your skin
The cosmetic use of Shea butter dates back centuries. To even before the Pharaonic age. Historical accounts show that Cleopatra herself loved this butter and would travel with jars and jars of it to keep her skin moisturised and protected whenever she traveled in the hot deserts of Egypt. Shea butter is not only a great moisturiser but due to its high content of essential fatty acids, the butter has truly regenerative and collagen-boosting qualities. Also it provides UV protection, which, makes it one of the most sought after ingredient for anti-aging and skin-revitalizing products.

Shea Nut - photo not our own
Shea Nut – photo not our own


The process of extracting it is quite tedious and is undertaken mostly by women. The Shea nuts are washed and then dried on handwoven mats. As they dry, the kernel inside separates from the shell, making a rattling noise when shaken. This is a sign that they’re ready. Once ready, they are ground using a kidii (stone) to into a fine powder. The powder is then mixed with hot water releasing the natural oils to the surface of the water. The resulting oil layer is then scooped up into muslin-like bags, where a cold press method is applied to release the precious butter many of us know and love. This is the process undertaken to extract the Shea Butter you find in our store The Shea Of The Nile™

For those more familiar with the Shea Butter preparation process, you will notice that in the extraction of Nilotic Shea Butter the roasting step is missing. These nuts rarely go through a boiling or roasting process – a major feature of Shea butter preparation in Western Africa. The result is a butter with an abundance of its natural vitamins and all its skincare benefits intact.

It is for this reason that we traveled to the source of the Nile in Uganda to bring you this amazing skin and hair-care product. We prefer to sell it in its raw and unrefined form because that way you get the most out of this natural product. In this form, its smell is something that may take a few days to get used to, but the good news is, its mild nutty smell disappears once it’s absorbed by the skin! Something that happens in a matter of seconds – yet another reason we prefer Nilotic Shea butter. Its consistency is smooth and creamy – even when solid – and easily melts in your hands.

Why We sell Shea Butter – More Than Just A Product.
You already know how the use of Shea butter traverses the ages and demonstrates a strong African Heritage of paleontology and sustainability. But there’s another reason why it’s close to our hearts here at Afro Fanatic. It is a product indigenous to Africa. Which grows wild in the tropics of the continent in just 8 countries! Ethiopia, Sudan, Zaire, Uganda, Cameron, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria. It is an ingredient relied on heavily by the modern beauty industry and features in products developed by well-known brands such as Nivea. Shea nuts are exported to Western countries (in their raw form) and then processed. The butter, often chemically extracted, to be used in these products is often of an inferior quality and the overall product possibly even harmful when one considers the chemicals used to formulate them. And these products flood the markets of African countries everywhere. With little benefit to the women – the custodians of these trees – who harvest the nuts.

The Shea Of The Nile™
The Shea Of The Nile™

By purchasing this product locally, we hope to rejuvenate traditional African industries. Encouraging our people to be manufacturers rather than just providers of raw materials. We source our products from women’s groups and enterprises which directly benefit the custodians of the Yaa tree. We also want to support the protection of these trees at the source of the Nile which are under threat. Economic pressures have forced families to resort to cutting down these trees and selling them as charcoal. A shame because a Shea nut tree takes no less than 20 years to bear its first fruit. At this rate, if the destruction is to continue, it will take many generations to restore these trees to healthy numbers.

Deep Thinking
There is mostly always a deep reason behind each of our products. A very deliberate curation of ideas and ideals to share with like-minded individuals. Thanks as always for your support.

Now a video from a very cool internet person we hope to meet one day, Duchess Gabrielle, or Gabrielle Mwangi, the brains behind the Tribe of Chic explaining the differences between Western and Nilotic Shea Butter. Follow her socials, you won’t regret it. Enjoy! 🙂

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