Turaren Wuta: Uses and significance to Arewa women.
Traditional Incense Turaren Wuta directly translates to 'light/fire perfume". It is a substance that is burned to produce a fragrant scent. Incense is commonly used in Asian traditions, where it is passed to guests as a gesture of hospitality. It is used in Northern Nigeria for its fragrance. Some women also believe that the consistent use of Dhukkhan (a particular type of incense) serves as an aphrodisiac.
Turaren wuta is scented wood or blends of natural traditional spices, wood chips and flowers. It is soaked in fragrant oils and mixed with natural ingredients such as ambergris, musk, sandalwood, frankincense and essential oils.
These scented chips/bricks are burned in charcoal or incense burners to cover the house and clothing with a fragrant mist. Incense is generally used every day or on special occasions. Among Kanuri people, it is used during weddings as a sign of blessing. It is widely used to provide fragrance and boost positive energy.
The incense chips burn in a traditional incense burner called Kasko (it has other names in other cultures like Mabkhara). Charcoal of wood or artificial charcoal discs/briquettes is used in burning the incense inside the Kasko. In recent times, using electrical incense burners to burn incense chips is faster and safer. However, most prefer to use charcoal because it’s traditional, natural and burns the chips better.
The popularity of the use of incense has grown to the extent that it is not only appreciated by the northern tribe but by almost all tribes around the country. Locally made incense, or Turaren Wuta as it is popularly known in the northern region of Nigeria, has become a very profitable business in Nigeria, especially for those in the northern part, as some of the ingredients needed are naturally grown there.
Document Women spoke with Khairat Yamusa, a Turaren Wuta vendor from Maiduguri and owner of Khairah's Scentry.
How did you get into the business of making and selling Turaren wuta?
The industry came out of a passion for scents. I love smelling good, and at home, I'm the one who always burned Turaren Wuta cause my family members and friends somehow believe I have a nose for it. They believe there's something different about my hands and the way I burn them. I woke up one day and told my mum I wanted to start a business, and she supported me.
I learnt how to make it from a friend's aunt, also from Maiduguri. Before I started making it myself, I used to buy from other vendors and resell them, but when I learnt how to make it, I started making it myself from scratch. The first time I made it and burned it in the kitchen, the scent lasted for weeks. It was that strong. I also made Khumrah, and my mum and aunts loved it. It's been hard balancing school and the business, so now I make it on special occasions.
How important do you think Turaren Wuta is to you as an Arewa woman and to arewa women in Nigeria?
I'm from Maiduguri, and one of the ways you can identify a person from Maiduguri aside from their dressing and language is Turaren Wuta. You'd always find them smelling nice no matter their social class. There's this tradition of putting turaren wuta in their clothes or homes. I always use Turaren Wuta when I'm going out instead of perfumes.
There are different kinds of Turaren Wuta. There's Khajiji, Sandal flakes, Sandal balls, Sandal sticks, Halud, Hair, etc. I think it's important because it makes me smell different and unique. It makes me stand out. It brings nice compliments. I've always liked standing out, and Turaren Wuta does this for me. Islamically, you have to be clean. They say cleanliness is next to Godliness, and Jinns don't like dirty things and dirty environments, so using it reduces the chances of jinns being there. I also don't use insecticides anymore; it somehow drives insects and mosquitoes away.
To Arewa women, I feel like it's a means of identification to them. It makes them feel different and stand out, so people know they're from the north. It's also important to them in their marriages because men like the smell of it. There's Turaren Wuta for private parts and herbs and all the steaming.
What do you think about the business opportunities in Turaren Wuta?
There are so many business opportunities when you hit it correctly, and the thing about it is you can't make the same kind of scent twice; you either make it better or worse, so if you market it correctly and brand it well, also getting ideas from other brands.
I have a friend in the U.S. who told me, "if I buy from any other person, let me die," I'm not that strong in the business because of school but I make sure I make quality products and I don't over price the products. It's all about knowing the right people to market.
People think there are limited scents of Turaren Wuta but there's a really wide range of scents and there's also liquid khumrah.
Not only Nigerians use Turaren Wuta, but it also moves widely from Chad to Senegal and Sudan people use it all over Africa so it can move from a small business to a huge brand exporting it. I know a store in Abuja that sells a 250 ml bottle for 25 thousand Naira. If the store stocks up today by the next day there'd be nothing left. People order ahead. There are so many opportunities for people who want to get into the business.