FIVE WAYS TO PREVENT BREAST CANCER: AN UNSCIENTIFIC APPROACH. In honour of Karin Koen and Elaine Salo

 

The reason why I call this an unscientific approach is because it is impossible to conduct a double blind clinical trial proving prevention. It is not impossible to design such a study but it is unethical and morally unthinkable. You simply cannot ask a certain number of women to use substances thought to cause cancer and an equal number of women to not use them in the hope of ‘proving’ that cancer is preventable. In such a situation, the precautionary principle – widely applied in the climate change field – is applicable. If you are doing something the consequences of which you cannot fully foresee then don’t do it. Zen Buddism applied to planetary ecosystems, of which you are part. Similarly, if you are not sure whether something causes cancer, don’t do it. Continue not to do it for a number of years, and if you are still healthy suddenly the need for a double blind clinical trial seems less overwhelming. So here’s a breakdown of things which may increase the risk of breast cancer. You can laugh at me but why bet your life on my being wrong?

 

  1. Nine times out of ten we are killing ourselves through our mouths. Pesticides and herbicides contain many known carcinogens. These operate mainly through endocrine disruption, that is, they disrupt the hormonal balance of the body. Until recently, it was thought that very low doses of these toxins would be ‘safe’. However, recent advances in scientific understanding (the little of it that remains unfunded by Big Agribusiness) is inclining towards the theory that there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ level.[1] This is because the endocrine system, like all living systems, is about balance. It does not matter if the imbalance is as light as a grain of sand or as heavy as an elephant, it will still tip the scale. Once the hormonal balance is disrupted all it takes is an unusual amount of stress to set the cells dividing at a cancerous rate. I am simplifying here but you get the point. Especially for women and genderqueer people, who are at high risk of gender-based violence, the added stress of Rape Trauma Syndrome and other Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (or even the constant worry of fearing them) places enough strain on our bodies without adding endocrine disruptors to the mix.

 

Play it safe. Eat food you have grown yourself or buy as much organic food as possible. In fact, do the planet a favour and stop emitting carbon at those expensive gyms. It is the most insane thing ever to be using electricity to do such an ordinary human thing as exercise. Garden organically instead, in your own or a guerilla garden you find somewhere. Carbon free and provides healthier food. Eat free-range meat, organic eggs and milk. Find a local grower (hopefully a women’s co-operative) or set up a community supported agriculture arrangement to source what you cannot produce, and while you are about it eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables high in betacarotenes and antioxidants: carrots, pumpkins, cabbage and her cousins, and so on. Yes, organic is more expensive than pesticide-laden food. But I can guarantee you it is cheaper than breast cancer treatment.

 

Plus you can use your consumer power to support small scale agriculture and women farmers. What is known as a win-win situation!

 

  1. Check your deodorant. Deodorants increase your risk of breast cancer because they are applied directly above the lymph nodes, the place where breast cancer is most likely to occur. Think of your body as a system. Say you are eating pesticide-laden food, breathing in pollution or drinking toxic water, all very ‘normal’ everyday urban experiences. Your system needs to try and get rid of these poisons. One of the ways we do this is by sweating. But if you are blocking your under arm sweat glands then you have just undermined this natural cycle. You are forcing the toxins back into your body where they start disrupting the balance which tells cells when to stop multiplying. So play it safe. When you are at home and hopefully working in the garden, stink away. If people don’t like it let them go bother somebody else.

This effect is doubled if your deodorant happens to contain cancer-causing chemicals. Yes, I said there are carcinogens in most deodorants and anti-perspirants sold on the market today. Aluminium is the one where the correlation is best proven, but parabens come a close second.[2] Parabens are preservatives which are also known endocrine disruptors. You are adding grains of sand to the ones already contained in your diet. It is a further problem if synthetic fragrances are used in your deodorant because companies are allowed to patent these and in order to protect their patents it is legal to not declare the ingredients thereof. So we have absolutely no idea what they do.  If the label of your deodorant says ‘aluminium’, any word ending in ‘paraben’, such as ‘methylparaben’, ‘butylparaben’, etc, or most ominously ‘fragrance’, toss it. Learn to read the labels. It can save your life.

Search for natural and organic deodorants. I am using Victorian Gardens’ one at the moment because I find that bicarbonate of soda ones give me a terrible rash. It can be ordered online.[3] Or have a look at a health food store near you! There are many traditional herbs and clays which can be used as well, so think of getting to know your indigenous knowledge systems as something which might save your life. Another win-win situation.

  1. Be a critically thinking consumer about those mammograms. Obviously if you are a high risk category, eg. with a high rate of breast cancer in the family, you might want to consider regular checks. But recent medical advice is that regular mammograms may in fact increase your risk of breast cancer. Because it increases your exposure to radioactivity.[4] Again, scientists are also re-thinking the notion of a ‘safe dose’ of radiation and for the same reasons, namely the notion of balance. Some of the chemicals involved are not that great either. Really.  Then there is the problem of ‘precautionary’ biopsies where you only find out if it is cancerous after the surgery, something, hm hm, extremely common amongst women with lots of medical aid. Let me run this by you again: your body is a living system, not a machine. Running your breast through a radioactive machine and then doing invasive trauma filled surgery is going to disrupt the system. Your breasts do not like it. This is in itself may increase your risk of cancer. The debate has raged for years, and I am not going to go into which cancer societies are funded by Big Pharma and which not. Suffice it to say that the move towards consensus is to have fewer mammograms for shorter periods of your life.[5]

 

My advice is to apply the precautionary principle: maximize those factors which prevent breast cancer and minimize those which may cause it. Do prayer, yoga and meditation which are great absolutely toxin free stress reducers and bring your body back into balance with your mind. Hug lots for the same reason. Have fun. Though self-examinations are discouraged nowadays for goodness knows what reason, for feminist purposes they are enjoyable, especially if conducted by your lover. Maximize those and give radioactivity a re-think.

 

  1. Burn the bra! This is not my feminist idea of a joke. It has been shown that constricting the breast tissue for many hours daily may increase the risk of breast cancer. This is for mechanical reasons that operate similarly to the deodorant issue: when you compress your breast tissue you limit blood flow and strangle the lymphatic system which is one of the principal means through which your body rids itself of toxins.[6] Apparently there are some insane people who actually sleep in bras and these obviously increase their risk since it means your body cannot be free to function even at night. So this is currently one of the hot frontiers in the breast cancer prevention debate. My take as a large-breasted woman who in fact never wore a bra at all until gravity finally got the upper hand at 42? Well, the precautionary principle says that you can without cost to your professional life easily toss the bra at the same time as you toss the deodorant: when you are at home or chilling with friends. Then see in ten years’ time when the scientific debate has concluded if you are still alive. Or not.

 

  1. Reconsider oral contraceptives! Along With Naomi Wolf[7] I have for years been saying that the ‘sexual revolution’ seemed to have benefited men more than it served women. Since becoming an aunt I have been saying so even more forcefully. There is no such thing as a free lunch. For every freedom there is also a responsibility. Especially from the point of view of African culture, I cannot say that giving up ancient ideas of mutual obligation and care in favour of sleeping around with whoever has not involved a lot of sacrifice, not least a marked lack of emotional safety. Now it seems as if it may be deadly. In fact, the link between contraceptive pills and breast cancer is one of the most scientifically uncontested ones. Even highly conservative organizations now acknowledge the link.[8] See, the problem is that humans did the same thing with the Pill as we are now doing with AZT’s. Highly scientific clinical trials were done on a few thousand people. Did we have any idea what would be the consequences of spreading this medication to millions of people over decades of time? Nope. Like runaway global warming, this is an example of where we failed to apply the precautionary principle. Pharmaceutical companies made millions, many men got lots of sex without concomitant responsibilities of marriage and child-care, and no doubt women too had a good time, but at a cost. See, I am going to repeat this one last time. The body is a living system. Abstracting it from life and sticking it in a laboratory where we investigate what one single substance does to one specific group of people over one specific period of time is only going to tell us so much. Now the results of decades of sticking oestrogen and progesterone into an incredibly delicately balanced endocrine system about which we actually know very little[9] lived by millions of women in an even more complex planetary ecosystem is an increase in rates of breast cancer. Ooops. There it is.

Yes, this has been known by doctors for a long time,that is why dosages have been steadily falling since the neutron bomb contraceptive pills of the 1960’s. And of course it remains better to increase your risk of breast cancer than to have children you cannot feed.  We will be doing the planet a HUGE favour by having fewer children and in fact are going to need to do so over the next generation or two or we won’t have a planetary ecosystem to keep our kids in. But that said, there are many healthy non-toxic ways to avoid getting pregnant. The most obvious is to end gender-based violence, and I won’t go into that since Professor Gqola has told us exactly how to go about it.[10]  But obviously, if 1 in 3 women in South Africa are going to be raped at least once in their lifetimes then it is likely that one-third of all children born are as a result of gender-based violence. Probably more, since rape is the situation where you are least likely to be able to choose contraception. But that is a really bad reason to use the Pill.

Turning to the pleasure side of sex there are plenty of non-toxic, more pleasurable and much cheaper methods of contraception. Probably the easiest of these is to become a lesbian. May be emotionally hazardous depending on who you end up with but solves your contraceptive problem for life. [11]  If you really, absolutely, not in a million years could stomach the thought and insist on being heterosexual, then use a condom. If you are allergic to latex or can’t stand the thought of emitting all that carbon, then practice non-penetrative sex in combination with the rhythm method. Do as the Khoesan did (in fact all matriarchal peoples) and get in harmony with the moon. Yes, it is more trouble and less reliable than the Pill. But it won’t increase your risk of breast cancer or render you a scientific experiment at your own expense. It will also serve to begin to undermine monopoly capitalism in the pharmaceutical sector. They lose their profits from the Pill and will also be less able to sell you expensive breast cancer treatment. I call that a good deal.

 

 

[1] . . The 2013 Berlaymont Declaration on Endocrine Disrupters Available at http://www.brunel.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/300200/The_Berlaymont_Declaration_on_Endocrine_Disrupters.pdf . Last accessed 30 May, 2014.

[2] . http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/02/17/deodorant-chemicals.aspx

[3] . http://www.thevictoriangarden.co.za/shop/bath-and-body/deodorants

[4] . http://www.breastcancerfund.org/clear-science/radiation-chemicals-and-breast-cancer/ionizing-radiation.html?referrer=https://www.google.co.za/

[5] . http://www.prevention.com/health/updated-breast-cancer-screening-guidelines

[6] . http://www.brafree.org/

[7] . Wolf, Naomi (1994). Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How To Use It. New York: Fawcett Columbine.

[8] . http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/features/birth-control-cancer-which-methods-raise-lower-risk

[9] . I will give you just one example: search the web for a single source of information that can tell you how to keep intersex people healthy in their natural state and you will find none. Zero. Zip. Nada. The only medical science that exists out there is about how to make them single-gendered. But as to what constitutes their optimal hormonal balance or what happens when they are exposed to multiple endocrine disruptors in a binary gender system which in itself stresses them to hell and gone and you will find a big empty gaping silence. Now if modern science has no idea of the complexities which go into keeping a person healthy who has lots of everything in intricate beautiful balance, how are we to understand the complex hormonal interactions even of single gendered humans? Short answer: we don’t. Your lives are being played with people, while Big Pharma makes lots of money. How does that make you feel?

[10] .   Gqola,  Pumla Dineo RapeA South African Nightmare Jacana Media, Johannesburg, 2015.

[11] . Peeps, I dealt with GBV already. OK?

Biko Day 2016

LIFE

For P.C. Jones

 

Why are all our heroes dead ?

Is it because the living

Do not loom over us, larger than life,

But their faults do?

 

We remember the courage of the dead

Honour their wisdom

Take the truth of their lives to heart

And love them always

Because they practiced what they preached

And died for the struggle.

 

Still, who knows the courage it takes

To get up every morning and breathe

In

Out

In

Out

In

Out

Living

Not the grand passions of the hero

But the silly human moments of life?

 

I do.

And I respect

You

Who choose to live for the struggle

 

Your Womanist Auntie’s Top Twelve Tips for Surviving the Feminist Movement In memory of Elaine Salo

 

 

  1. Spaces for places, people. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If people want to be separatist, let them. Go off and start a separatist movement of your own. Like a movement of people who HAVE SORTED THEIR ISSUES.
  2. Don’t be a hypocrite. Acknowledge privilege. It may hurt the first few times but you will soon get used to it. And when you acknowledge, do so effectively. People do not have time to waste on your browbeating. Send the limo to the township to ferry children to school and take the #*^%&%!! taxi. Sign over your inherited property to a Queer shelter for kids who have been thrown out of the house for coming out, and then wear that T-shirt that says “F–k white people”.
  3. Don’t be a chauvinist. If you speak Zulu the entire meeting without arranging for translation then don’t get upset when I respond in Afrikaans. And nope. No, you do not get to name me. I will sweetly pull you up short the first three times you call me out of my name. The fourth time I will take you outside and show you feminism Mitchell’s Plain style.
  4. Make a point of keeping your sexlife apart from your politics. Yes, you won’t get dykes without drama, but there has got to be some boundaries. If she/they votes against your constructive and valid motion purely because you dumped her/them last night for that sweet young thing, don’t be surprised. Yes, she/they should be bigger than that. But she/they aren’t. So if you can’t keep your thing in your panties/boxer shorts, then go find a sex life somewhere else.
  5. Also, be sure separate the space where you sort your issues from your struggle meetings. You don’t want your discussions of how many pamphlets to print mixed up with an argument about the way you hurt her feelings.[1] (pace Joanna Russ) If you want to join the movement, the first thing you got to do is set yourself up with therapy/peer counselling/online support group, something. Look, if 1 in 3 women gets raped at least once in her lifetime at least 30 % of your movement at any given time is walking around with some form of post-traumatic stress, if not full blown Rape Trauma Syndrome. This is quite apart from our inherited loopiness from 400 years of genocide, slavery, land dispossession, segregation, apartheid and then the Zuma regime.  People are not well. Make a point of having an emotional health space which is not the space where you discuss strategy and tactics or where you implement. Otherwise you are never going to get anywhere.
  6. Aaah, toxic bosses! There are a lot of fu—ed up people out there. You know, people who actually want to be patriarchs but the freaking system won’t let them because they have the wrong genitals. Somebody is going to write a Ph D thesis on that species one of these days. Maybe you? Tell yourself you are doing data collection and in the meantime here is a breakdown of the main subspecies:

a/ The NGO Mama. The technical term is ‘elite capture’. Nothing can happen unless it goes through her. She has been powerless her entire life and now she is dedicating the little bit that she has to make sure that you all pay the price. If you are working for struggle wages, with compulsory overtime and weekend work as standard, where only the buttlickers get to go to conferences and such and you find yourself having to explain to the community how your carefully negotiated workshop schedule got changed for the fourth time in this morning’s meeting because your boss woke up with another bright and completely impractical idea, then this is your NGOM subspecies. Tell yourself you are building your CV and then move on.

b/ The manipulative Queen. Do yourself a favour! Look up the symptoms for Borderline Personality Disorder[2] online and then tell yourself that you did not cause it, you cannot cure it, and what you need to do is deal with your co-dependency issues. Collect your data and consider it a capacity-building experience.

c/ The “I did not struggle to be poor” Queen Bee (no offence to bees intended), who is purely in it for the honey. If you notice that she and the Chair of the Board seem to do an inordinate amount of travelling business class and staying in five class hotels while this person with a post-graduate education decides that no, the community does not need more than two capacity-building workshops because the budget does not allow for more – or no, the organization cannot afford workplace childcare – then again, collect your data and move along.

d/ actually another version of the Queen Bee was the Director of an NGO I knew whose girlfriend worked for a funder and who coincidentally employed girlfriend as a consultant out of said funder’s budget. Unless the Board got its sh-t together (usually not or they would have got the Director figured out long ago) there is not much you can do but sit and learn. You never know when experience tracking down corruption may come in handy.

  1. Bitter truth: lot of people like to feel good about the struggle while at the same time being scared witless at the prospect of actually challenging white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalism. They are comfortable being victims. So they invent a lot of activity that at heart is sound and fury signifying nothing. This allows them to stay very busy (and spend lots of donor funding) on absolutely pointless activities which tire everybody and lets them feel good without making squat difference in the real world. Trust your common sense. If it sounds like an idiotic idea it usually is. [3]
  2. That said, never be afraid to make a complete fool of yourself. You are not bigger than patriarchy, which is the all time most foolish system imaginable. So

a/ you know that point in the meeting at which that permanently waif-like emotional vampire who is looking for someone to project her stuff on has just managed to manipulate the entire collective into a stupid and pointless idea which has bullying at its heart? Don’t be afraid to make gat. If everybody cracks up laughing the tension will be broken and there is every hope that something constructive may yet emerge.

b/ ja, you know that other moment in the meeting where we all have bitched, complained and generally made ourselves very comfortable in our victim status, the time has come for constructive, creative suggestions and a painful silence starts to spread around the meeting while everybody starts furtively looking at their cellphones? Make your suggestion! The worst they can do is laugh at you. But you know, Goddess sees you and will give you brownie points in feminist heaven for at least trying to be a real revolutionary.

c/ and if the movement dumps your suggestions of building biogas digesters, starting food gardens, fermenting effective microorganisms, improving the water supply, volounteering at pre-schools, scrutinizing the Auditor-Generals accounts to figure out exactly how much money has been embezzled which could fund free quality education, or some other activity which might make A REAL DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF ACTUAL WOMEN and combine immediate needs with long term strategic qualitative change; in favour of yet another demonstration/workshop/petition/[4]activity which involves lots of rhetoric, many speeches and much grandstanding for who gets the biggest microphone (see point  6), then you need to start asking yourself if you are really in the right movement. 90 % of the time it is less emotionally draining and more productive to just go off and start another movement (see point 1).

  1. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When the good time girls, opportunists and bandwagon jumpers (not to mention ministers in Zuma’s government) start to say that they are feminist, smile sweetly and take it for the compliment it is. Here we have spent decades trying to mainstream the feminist movement and this is the inevitable result. We are now the fashion. Pat them on the back and then get the hell out of there.
  2. Still, remember that at the heart of feminism is choice. And that for every finger you point at other people there are four fingers pointing back at you. So if you are in a movement where the pressure for conformity is intense (people are ganging up to bully the lipstick lesbian or have decided there is only one politically correct way to trans) and others are walking around saying that yes, they read Abrahams and Abrahams has said that you are not a real feminist, realize that you are probably not in the feminist movement at all. Go back to point 1.
  3. So can you really know whether the movement you are in is feminist? Easy! Take a good hard look at how they handle conflict. Feminism is all about process. Do they

a/ ensure that even the smallest minority is heard even when it is not what Everybody Else is saying?

b/ take it for granted that everybody needs to be held accountable for their actions, and it is NO BIG DEAL to be asked to account?

c/ resolve conflict openly, i.e. tell you in public with witnesses or a recording device what their problem is, give you a fair hearing and acknowledge any factual evidence you may wish to bring to the table?

d/ take steps to limit the conflict to the actual protagonists, assuming that they are grown people who will take responsibility for their actions and remember that the struggle really is bigger than they are?

e/ accept that you are the agent of your own liberation, i.e. that telling who you are and what you should be doing in the name of feminism is probably not very feminist? You think?

 

Or do they

i/ Shut people up when it gets uncomfortable?

ii/ start crying and saying you are nasty when you ask them why they did that tomfool thing in the organization’s name when the previous meeting had precisely decided it was tomfool?

iii/ resolve conflict through gossip, innuendo and rumour, backbiting and going suddenly quiet when you rock up, e-mailing stuff about you which you are NOT being cc’ed, all the while smiling to your face and telling you they are your only real feminist friends?

iv/ drag non-combatants into the conflict, creating caucuses and movements within a movement, expecting everybody to take their side and when people – surprisingly – don’t, insist on making it an issue of personal loyalty? As if patriarchy cared…

v/ decide that they are the real experts at liberation and yes, their pain is really much more important than workingclass/unemployed and unemployable/rural/ trans/genderqueer pain and that it is actually all about them. So they think nothing of occupying the entire meeting/movement with THEIR ISSUE and will not let it go without creating maximum amount of drama and division.

 

Well, there you go my childen! Remember, just like you cannot let the faith-based institution stand between you and Godde, you should not let the movement stand between you and bringing down patriarchy.  90 % of women/trans/genderqueers are still unorganized. If you are in a movement like 11 i-v/ you will probably even find your Neighbourhood Watch or your Consumer’s Association more potentially radical, and at least considerably more useful. You can exhaust yourself trying to stay and fight or you can what?

 

MOVE OUT AND BUILD A MOVEMENT!!!

 

 

[1] . I deliberately use the female pronoun here because hopefully genderqueers are more mature than that.

[2] . Nope, not being able-ist. In fact, I think we need a Mad Pride movement desperately. But see, I own my craziness.

[3] , No. We do not need workshops on how to use sex toys. We used to have to figure out stuff like that by ourselves. If the younger generation don’t know what to do, they shouldn’t be joining the feminist movement. Neither do we need  ‘sex-positive spaces’. Let them go do it in the bush like we used to. It’s called tough love.

[4] . Not saying that we don’t need these things. Just saying that if they at some point don’t lead to practical action then you are probably not in the feminist movement.

Khoelife Entry into the Soap Challenge Club

The soap I made is named “Power of Love”, something my nation desperately needs at the moment.

The challenge was to design a soap using an impression mat. But I couldn’t find one that I liked, so in the end I made my own. I found some rhinestones that did the job perfectly!

Photo E Davey

Photo E Davey

Then I cast the silicone mould.

Photo E Davey

Photo E Davey

 

Now my problem is that I am always tempted to colour outside the lines. Though I dutifully read through all the instructions,  no sooner did I hear that it was impossible to paint a wet mica then I had to try it. I guess that is one way to keep growing and learning! I should mention that I have only used botanical colours, this was my first mica ever. But I thought it is festive season and we can afford to indulge ourselves in some sparkle.  I mixed the mica in oil and applied it with a dropper. I then let it dry for a few hours.

Phote E Davey

Phote E Davey

Thinking through the design was the tricky part. The instructions were to focus on the texture created by the impression mat.  So to think of something that enhanced the pattern without overshadowing it took some effort. In the end I decided to go with my favourite tilted wall pour in these adorable heart popsicle moulds.

IMG_0237

Now to assemble it all! Being very careful not to disturb the mica, I decided to apply the first layer with a bottle.

Photo E Davey

Photo E Davey

Then I added another layer with a spoon and added my embeds.

Photo E Davey

Photo E Davey

I let it stand for a few days without gelling. And here’s the  loaf!!

Photo E Davey

Photo E Davey

 

 

 

The final cut.

final cut

Tagged

Learning to think differently – or is it going back to what we know?

Photo Ethne Davey

Photo Ethne Davey

photo Ethne Davey

photo Ethne Davey

 

How do we know what we know? Or do we not really know and are only too happy to take somebody else’s word for the truth?

 

 

Soap-making is equal parts arts and science. It helps me a lot in thinking around what science can and cannot do. Of course working my day job in climate change has focused the mind powerfully around the limits of science. There is a sense in which the current crisis constitutes a huge ‘Ooops’ on the part of Cartesian science.  It works very well when there is a single cause for a single effect – like combustion engines. But when we are confronted with a single cause which has multiple effects (like pesticide endocrine disruptors ) then science is stumped because the problem does not lend itself to the experimental method. Or when we see multiple causes having a single outcome (gender based violence, say, or global warming) then again the positivistic approach we have all been taught to revere as the fount of truth fails to provide answers. In fact, if anything the crisis teaches us to be open to humility. You don’t know what you don’t know and life has a way of rubbing your nose in it. Or, as at present, the entire planetary ecosystem…

But then again, this only confirms what organic farmers and indigenous peoples (or those of us who are mad enough to be both) have been saying for a long time. So where do we go from here? Do we look for other gods in human guise to provide the ultimate answers? Or do we – finally – learn to think for ourselves? I have attached a new paper: Epistemology of Intersectionality, where I try to go deep about these things.

 

PLEASE DO NOT ASK US TO TEACH YOU TO MAKE SOAP – AS A REFUSAL MAY OFFEND

Khoelife has a standing offer for any NGO, CBO or individual: if you sign up as a distributor and build up your turn-over to the point where you have created one or more jobs in production – we have been making soap for a long time so we can tell you exactly where this point is – then we will train someone from your organization to make soap. As long as you can feed and transport your trainee to our soap workshop, it will not cost you a cent. Once we feel that the trainee is able to make soap with renewable energy to Khoelife’s exacting quality standards, which could be anything from three months to a year or two depending on what type of soap you are wanting to make, we will assist you to set up your own workshop. Personally I feel at least a year is best because the thing with renewable energy is that it puts you back in touch with natural cycles. The soap and your energy source really behave differently depending on temperature, humidity, etc. So I don’t feel I have properly trained someone until they have been with me for a full year. However some of the simpler soaps can probably be taught a little faster than that. Be that as it may, when Khoelife feels you are trained then you can produce soap under licence and pay us a royalty fee of a few cents per bar produced.

Now we really like this approach. For one, it makes more sense for a social entrepreneur to first build marketing and distribution, so they know what size production unit to set up. This way you can produce to an existing market where you are familiar with demand.There is nothing worse for a small business than to sit with excess capacity, where all your money is tied up in production while your stock is not moving. Of course our production method: making soap one pot at a time using very basic energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, is much cheaper to set up (and more adaptable to scale)  then the fossil-fuel ‘make it big’ approach. It is like the difference between organic farming and chemical farming. The first allows you to choose your scale while the second imposes scale. Still,  I have researched entrepreneurship for a good decade and a half and spent the last three years trying to run a soap business, so I know whereof I speak. I have never met a small business owner who does not complain of stranded assets in the context of an unexpected fall in demand. We constructed a business precisely to address this problem. To begin with marketing and distribution means we carry the production overhead for you until you are strong enough to stand on your own.

For two this has the added advantage for the start-up business that we do not charge you for training. We make our money back from licence fees over time. So if we teach you to make soap it means we believe in you enough to invest our time and knowledge without asking any up-front payment.

For three, this means that you are on your own but not alone. The trainee in a social franchise system is a way of making sure that you have somebody to call at any time. I have been making soap for 19 years and I still get horribly failed batches. One of my most comforting things to do at that moment is to watch Youtube where friendly and courageous soap-makers actually post their soap failures. It makes me realize I am not alone. Natural cold-process soap can be easy, but it can also go horribly wrong. So it makes sense for everybody to work with a consistent approach over a period of time.

For four, from our side it is advantageous because we do not want to grow too big. To expand horizontally rather than vertically makes sense to us. Having lots of co-ops producing under licence while we can focus on supply issues and quality control, works.  Not least because it would give me more time to relax and produce hand-made specialty soaps or work on new recipes🙂

This approach allows us to really get to know an organization or individual. When you have been a distributor for a couple of years, it means we have worked with you long enough to know that you can be trusted to produce under the Khoelife label. Quality control is a BIG issue with us. We do not let a product go out with our name on it unless we are 100% happy with it. So it is a huge gesture of trust for us to teach other people to make Khoelife soap and it is not unreasonable of us to want to do so in a system with checks and balances.

The interesting thing, though, is that lately we have been getting lots of enquiries from people who want to learn to make soap. When we present our standard offer,  they tend to want to enter into long negotiations with us.  When we explain politely that we are in the business of selling soap, not training the competition and that no, we are really not going to close our workshop down for the day to come teach you to make soap unless you fulfill the terms and conditions required to make soap under licence and even then we expect you to come to us, people can get quite intense. When we then  even more politely explain that if you did not call us to buy soap then we really don’t know why we are having this conversation, people can get quite excited.   Now this astounds me. Is it because we are small? Is it because we are female? Is it because we are Black?

I mean, who phones Unilever and says ‘can you teach me how to make soap’? If Toyota refused to close down their plant for the day in order to teach Volkswagen to make cars, nobody would be surprised. So why do people expect us to want to teach them to make soap? It baffles me. I would love to hear your comments about what this is about…

And it is worth repeating that we are committed to training. We do not believe it is right to keep knowledge to yourself. All we are saying is that there is a system and we will train people who adhere to the system.

I am pleased for the compliment. Every one of the people who have come asking for soap workshops have prefaced their request with: “I really love your soap”. Great! Then buy it! And if you love it enough to want to sell to your networks then go for it. When we can see tangible results we will be only too happy to offer training. But we do not offer once-off workshops and no, wanting to pay us for it is not going to make us want to do it.

Now, some natural soap-makers do offer workshops.  Often this occurs when they are in the business of selling soap-making supplies. It makes sense for them to teach people to make soap so people can order more stuff from them. Or just possibly they are not selling enough soap and so teaching other people becomes a necessary source of income for them.  It is not for us to speculate. Nor are we going to comment on the approach that says it is possible to teach people to make soap in a day or two. That may do very well for some, and if that is what you want, then we suggest you approach http://www.howtomakesoap.co.za   or  http://www.nakedsoap.co.za

There is Bev Missing’s The rain book of natural soapmaking Bev used to run rain soap company but has since sold it to American interests and retired. So of course she would write a book. Which is a fantastic read and available at Exclusive Books.

The Queen of Soap, Anne Marie Fabiola of Brambleberry fame, has a new book also at Exclusive. Brambleberry are the people from whom I order some of my natural soap colorants, and have so far found them of a high quality.  The Soap Queen blog  http://www.soapqueen.com/ has lots of tutorials and you can also order their e-books online: http://www.brambleberry.com

I love the wonderful world of internet! When I started making colour soaps Youtube came to my assistance and there are any number of videos on any kind of soap from the basic to the most complex.  Big ups to the kind and sharing soap-making community!! There are also innumerable blogs, Facebook pages and online soap-maker’s forums.

So we appreciate the people wanting to learn to make soap and are only too happy that they are so enthusiastic about the virtues of natural soap.  We hope they have found this blog helpful. But if all you are wanting is a workshop or two, please don’t call us! Should you want to become a serious distributor with an eye to becoming a social franchisee one day, do please contact us at enquiries@khoelife.co.za

 

 

WE ARE LIVE!!!

You can now go to our new website: http://www.khoelife.co.za It is lovely website, user-friendly and interactive. But this blog will continue for those who like to go deep🙂

Caring for the Ecosystem on Global Wellness Day

Saturday June 13:th is Global Wellness Day. We thought we should celebrate wellness by honouring the bee. The bee symbolizes for us the fact that we humans exist in an ecosystem. If some part of the ecosystem is not well, we humans will suffer too. The bee is an excellent teacher of this principle. Without this humble creature, we humans would be very challenged to survive. Think of all the things you eat in a day which have been pollinated by bees! Everything from apples and all other deciduous fruits, to tomatoes, pumpkins or brazil nuts. In fact, 80 % of the world’s pollination is performed by bees. The bees perform this service for us without charging us anything. It is a free gift, given as they seek nectar to turn into delicious honey which is also a skin softener of note and an ancient beauty aid. Honey is technically known as a humectant, meaning it attracts moisture from the air. So it is great to put on skin since it will aid the skin to naturally moisturize and is wellknown for its therapeutic qualities on dry skin or aged skin. Honey lotions are especially useful for diabetics since it is also a traditional anti-septic which helps to heal cuts and wounds in difficult places like toes. Beeswax is an ancient Khoesan cosmetic, still in use for everything from body butters to lipsticks. Bees also produce propolis, a sap they collect from tree buds to fix their hives with which has for centuries been lauded as a healing substance. They are truly an example of a gift economy which becomes the richer for sharing.

In light of the essential services performed by bees, it is very worrying that the world is confronting a bee crisis. Pesticides, herbicides, GMO’s and the disappearance of habitat is slowly causing the collapse of entire bee colonies. For instance, in the US it is calculated that some 60 % of bees are dying in winter, as opposed to a normal winter loss of 10%-15 %. (http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/genetic-engineering/Bees-in-Crisis/ ) In South Africa weakened bee colonies are falling victim to a viral infection called the Foul Brood disease, which is estimated to have killed off some 40 % of bees. If it doesn’t come under control this disease will threaten a R 20 billion agricultural industry. (http://mg.co.za/article/2015-04-16-honeybee-crisis-catches-sa-off-guard ) You can imagine if we had to hand pollinate our fruit and vegetables, food would rapidly become too expensive to eat. So the bee crisis is our crisis. It is a wake-up call to humans to say if we do not take care of our ecology we will not be well.

In the western Cape the bee crisis became particularly noticeable when the recent veld fires made many bees homeless. On the Khoelife farm they came right into the workshop, asking us to provide them with a home. So we are very proud and happy to say that we have found a beekeeper who has placed six hives in a corner of the place. If all goes well he will try to fit in more. The bees have settled in nicely, and because our garden is fully organic and – most importantly – flowers every month of the year, we are sure that they will be very happy here. For bees the important thing is not just how much food they have in the aggregate, but that there is food during the lean season. This stops them from having to eat their stored honey and means there is more for us. Right now the Elephant’s food is blooming (fittingly one of the most carbon-storing plants in existence) and the first of the aloes.

 

Next month it will be the turn of  the very aptly named honey euryops, which does us nobly right through the time of the winter solstice, and indeed I appreciate its golden flowers which remind me that the sun will be coming back, almost as much as the bees! During its flowering season the bushes are so packed with bees that they positively hum.

And soon of course there will be the winter flowering buddleia (Buddleia auriculata) whose sweet smell haunts the garden, floating behind you as you pass. It is rare that the bees like fragrant plants but the buddleias are certainly an exception to this rule.

 

So at Khoelife we would like to honour the bee by launching our Shea Butter, Goat’s Milk and Honey Soap. All the expert soapmaker blogs will tell you that there is no such thing as the perfect soap, that different oils produce different outcomes and itr all depends on what you want from the final soap. It is of course one of the challenges which keep soapmaking interesting as one selects the one oil for bar hardness, the other one for lather, the third one for moisturizing and so on. Normally I am a slut for soap. My favourite one tends to be the one I am making at the moment. But the  Shea Butter, Goat’s Milk and Honey Soap! Oh my word!! It was love at first sight, or should I say at first wash… It is so soft and gentle on the skin, almost as if one was washing with a lotion. But the combination of shea butter and beeswax makes for a nice hard bar which lasts forever, even though it is hard to stop washing with this soap.

In honour of the bee our Shea Butter, Goat’s Milk and Honey Soap is organic. We have not provided certified shea. This is a wild-harvested oil. The trees are never farmed since a Shea tree takes about fifty years to begin fruiting, so nobody could make money farming it. Since this is the case, we thought it very unlikely that anybody would ever take chemicals to a Shea tree and felt that it made no sense to make you pay double for the certified oil. But the soap is 80 % certified organic, containing certified coconut, olive and palm oils.

 

Unfortunately we have been unable to find certified organic goat’s milk. But I could not resist adding it since goat’s milk is another classic beauty aid which I felt belonged in this deeply traditional African soap. Goat’s milk has a unique Ph. close to that of human skin so is always useful to add to soap. It also contains oils which help to plump up the skin as well as alpha-hydroxy acids. AHA’s are anti-oxidants which combat free radicals, helping to slough off old skin cells and create beautiful skin. Of course in recent years international cosmetic houses sell you AHA’s at fantastic prices without telling you that it is an ancient beauty aid found in the humble goat’s milk.

 

In the case of this soap, I felt that it should stand alone and needed no fragrance to set off its excellences. So it is completely fragrance free for the most sensitive skin. I have added some powdered organic vanilla and powdered dried vetiver root from our own garden for a very slight exfoliation. Both vanilla and vetiver are natural emollients, meaning they assist the skin to retain water. So with the honey attracting moisture from the air and vanilla and vetiver keeping it in you can see why I absolutely love this soap.

But, just to add to its feel of luxury and abundance, in the spirit of wellness as our right and what we should expect as the norm is when we live a fulfilling life, I developed an accompanying moisturizer. Our new Shea Butter and Honey Lotion has all the good qualities of the soap, scented with some Rose Geranium, lemongrass, lavender and Neroli for the ultimate self-indulgence. It is equally organic and 80 % certified. So love yourself this weekend, or spoil a loved one, by joining us at Rodger’s Fruiterers in Kommetjie this Saturday and treating yourself to some of this handmade artisan soap made with renewable energy. Come celebrate global wellness with us by supporting the  bee and spoiling your skin at the same time.  Or order from us at enquiries.khoelife@gmail. com

 

It does not get better than this.

Deep Deep Tradition

Well, I haven’t been blogging lately because it has been an intense few months, creatively. I have been very busy while not blogging.  An incredibly generous client – can’t mention by name yet but hopefully soon I can acknowledge the inspiration – encouraged me to work with colour. I set my own rules, of course, only natural colours, indigenous first, and as far as possible things that could be produced from my garden without any carbon miles. Looked deep into the stuff of life, namely chlorophyll, having long conversations with it persuading it not to turn brown with time.  The worst part of course being that one has to wait for weeks or months before you really know whether your colours stay fast. So a slow process. At one point I was fermenting indigo, and going slowly insane when I discovered that indigo has been fermented since  Babylonian times because, people, my indigo would not ferment.  This was the more embarrassing since indigo dying is an ancient tradition everywhere from Mali to Japan. I could not have it said that the Khoesan were behind, but there, when I finally produced a respectable result the fermentation smelt so bad I could not possibly use it in soap. Picture me tearing my hair out and swearing to become a history teacher and stay away from all this soap stuff. It was hard! In the end I cheated and ordered some from Brambleberry – at which point of course my South African indigo started fermenting nicely. The ancient Murphy’s law as applied to dyes….

Well, here are some of the results.

hennasweet orange

I liked the idea of a HENNA INDIGO AND WAXBERRY shampoo bar, scented with lavender, mint and lots of rosemary for hair and scalp health. This bar brings together great herbal traditions from all over the world grounding them right here in the Cape. These are all well established dyes, so no worries about their safety or staying power.  I don’t dye my hair, but it seems as if this bar will make your dye job last longer and intensify your hair colour.  I like henna for its conditioning qualities, nothing will give your hair new bounce like henna and waxberry. I made this bar with some soap plant to increase rinsability (is that a word?) coconut, palm (supplied by an RSPO member, people!), , olive and pumpkin seed oil. This last is my latest craze. I just love the way it sinks into the skin, moisturizing all the way. Pumpkin seed oil is said to be rich in vitamin E, zinc, omega 3- and 6- fatty acids as well as antioxidants, all of which contributes to helping your skin withstand stress better and regenerate faster. Zinc is also something they put in sunscreen, so here is a natural way to get it.

Making soap means I have to wash my hair every day so I am getting pretty choosy about what I put into my shampoo bars. This one is my best so far, it leaves my hair conditioned and feeling silky soft. Most soap makers will tell you that 25 % pumpkin seed oil is much too much of a good thing, making for much too rich a soap, but I find in a shampoo bar it is just right.  It works beautifully for black, brown and red hair.

I am curious if there are people interested in a shampoo bar for blondes? Would love to make one so please comment and let me know!

And in the middle of the photo is my new look SHEA BUTTER CITRUS bar. You know, I have so many times met women from West Africa thinking they were in their thirties only to discover they were multiple grandmothers. Well, now I suspect Shea Butter is their secret. A friend from Nigeria turned me on to this oil and now it is my extra special luxury oil.  It’s got vitamins A and E, phytosterols and allantoin and has been called the skin superfood. Allantoin is a substance also found in comfrey and ag-dae-geneesbossie, the famous wound healing herbs from Europe and the Cape respectively. Allantoin speeds up the rate of tissue regeneration which is why shea butter has been considered a healing oil.Best of all, shea butter is a wild harvested oil so you only get organic. I have started to get interested in oils which cannot be grown with petrochemicals (coconut is another one) although only some of them get certified. But a great way to build a bridge from the natural to organic market by using more such oils!

 

Because a large proportion of Shea butter oils are unsaponifiable (refuse to combine with lye to make soap), it means you cannot make a harsh soap with Shea Butter. Combine it with my base oils and pumpkin seed oil and you have an ultra-nourishing  soap that just goes on and on. I especially love the contrast between the gentle bar and the fresh lemongrass, rosemary and organic orange scent.  Just the bar to use if you are preparing for a night out because it will invigorate your skin and temper at the same time as it refreshes and moisturizes.

 

I had great fun working on the colours with this one, the combination of waxberry brown, indigo green and red palm oil just gives me pleasure every time. I found that Shea butter tends to absorb a lot of dye so my first versions were a bit washed out. The photo is batch two. Now that I know what I am doing I did a 100 % organic batch that will be ready next month. Watch this space!

growth and change…

Summer is here in earnest and the roses are triumphantly overcoming climate change. In fact they are so abundant this year that we are picking damask roses for the body butter. That’s right, you now not only get waxberry but also roses in your body butter. Only while harvests last so don’t waste time getting your hands on some!!
This weekend at Alive Muizenberg Market or next weekend at The Conscious Living Fayre – or order direct from khoelife@gmail.com

 

IMG_0035 potofroses

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by Ethnѐ Davey