Churai (Gambian Incense)

I think I was in high school the first time someone told me that I have a distinctive smell. Not a bad smell, just a specific smell. Since the first time, I only kept hearing it more. I couldn't sneak up on someone and make them guess who. "It's Mariama. I can smell you." It was a bit annoying, but also kind of nice to know that I've got this something special about me. I owed my involuntary signature scent to Churai, the incense my mother burns in the house all the time. It is Gambian custom to fragrance the home with Churai. My mother uses it to clear the air, to get rid of the lingering smells after cooking, regardless of if it was a Gambian dish or macaroni and cheese. I could keep my bedroom door closed and my dresser shut but I could never escape the churai. It is a stubborn reminder, never letting me forget my culture, and my home. *The image shows a pot for holding churai. The burning pieces of incense could be placed inside the pot, which can then be transported from room to room, to spread the fragrance all over the house.

Year: 1994

– Mariama Badjie

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