Hello everyone! I am writing this article after receiving several messages regarding a traditional beauty product we make in Chad. A video was posted on Youtube by Miss Sahel (in French EDIT- There is now an English version of it- please see below). She speaks about Chébé or Chéwé in my mother tongue) of the nomadic Basara Arab ethnic group of Chad also known as Arab Bagara (literally cow people).
I have received tons of private messages (on Facebook, Instagram and via my email blogs) of people asking me for the recipe and where to find the final product!).
Coming out of Chad, Chewé/Chébé/Shewe hait powder is a product I know very well. I grew up with it. It is one of those many beauty recipes handed down mother to daughter in my family for generations. I have done it many times with my cousins and aunts while in Chad, literally in my backyard.
We Goranes (Dazaga and/or Toubou) women of Northern Chad put it all over our hair, with special attention to the hair in front that we call ''Ougla''. We also putted it in the ''Fichey'' or "Dobou Gorane" which is the hair at the middle (check picture in white and black in the gallery below), that only married women are allowed to wear. Those hair tend to be way (I mean wayyy) longer than the rest of rest of hair. It is also an excellent anti shrinkage product. Below, you can see a selection of my people with pictures from Pinterest (and yes the hair is all real and natural!). One of my aunt's hair who uses lots of Chéwé touches the floor when she is seating. Yeah it is that long!
However, they are some downsides to the Chewé/chébé/chebe hair mixture from Chad. I absolutely love my chewé/chébé/shebe hair powder and the effect it has on my hair: healthy, lustrous and strong. But it is extremely hard to use it on a regular basis with my modern life : it is quite staining, so you cannot really wear it with white clothes or use light-colored linens. As I always cover my hair with scarves, it is a huge problem for me. The smell can also be quite unbearable when the original cow butter is used. That's why most women forgo it those days and the recipe calls for lots of perfumes. Chéwé powder itself has a smell that I am personally not a huge fan. It is hard to describe it, it is a bit nutty, earthy and spicy, all at the same time. As I don't use animal products in my food and beauty products, the recipe I am sharing here does not obviously use cow butter (It is vegan and by the way also gluten free).
The video of Miss Sahel is very clear for French speakers. But given the popular demand, I decided to explain you the whole process and share with you the recipe of chébe/chewé/shebe mixture that I learnt as a young girl. I am in the middle of yet another move (the second in few weeks!) but I still managed to find a few moments to do the recipe, take pictures of it and sit down to write (my first ever) bilingual blog post.
As a true Gourane, I had all ingredients at home (Ironically I was missing coconut oil and had to run to the organic supermarket to get it).
Ingredients For The Chéwé/Chébé/Shebe Hair Powder Mixture (for a small jar)
1 tablespoon of Mahalaba
1/2 teaspoon of cloves
1/2 teaspoon of incense resin (Misik)
1 teaspoon of Humra perfume
3 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil
In a pan, grill the Mahalaba, Chewé (mine was already grilled and powdered so I did not need to do it this time) and the cloves. Turn all ingredients into powder. Traditionally, we use a mortar and pestle to do so, but now I also get help from my blender.
Melt the coconut oil in bain-marie and add it to the powders mix. Finally, add the Humra. Humra is an age-old perfume (Rumor has it that it dates back to the Pharaoh times) that we make in Chad and Sudan. It is yet another of those recipes that is passed down from mother to daughter and I am actually totally obsessed with it. Its scent is just intoxicating. It is the only perfume that I wear. But I digress.
Mix all the ingredients until you get a very smooth mix. I love that it is so easy to get a smooth texture with the blender. Voilà, your very own Chewé powder mixed with perfumed oil is ready!
Just like the video shows it, here is the ritual: first lightly wet the hair with water, and then apply the chéwé powder mixed with perfumed oil from roots to tips. For extra nourishment, you can use more vegetable oil, shea butter or moringa oil, all which are native from my home country. Olive oil is also great. I remember when I first heard of the LOC (Liquid Oil Cream) method, I could not help but think that it is very much like Chéwé ritual.
Unless you live in Chad, most of those ingredients are quite hard to come by (and not always cheap).