Words: Beth Fuller
Featured Image: TAIA
Founded by Muji Otho, TAIA is a natural and artisanal skincare brand with a commitment to bettering both the environment and the economic opportunities of local women. After a visit to her native country South Sudan in 2013, Muji grew passionate about the natural ingredients used there, and, the stories behind them. By turning this passion into a brand, Muji has created a connection between natural skincare, sustainability and female empowerment.
We sat down with Muji to hear about her thoughts behind such an innovate and purposeful brand, her most influential memory from her journey thus far and her hopes for the future.
We’d love to hear about how you began TAIA and your reasons; can you share with us what inspired you to create the brand and your vision?
The journey to founding TAIA runs parallel with my personal journey to reclaiming beauty in myself, in nature and in the sacred. For me, my greatest inspirations and interests have always centered on sub-Saharan Africa; so when I started to travel more of the continent, I naturally fell in love with exploring the unique botanicals that I came across.
Before long, I started to connect the dots between my interests in sustainable development, empowerment and natural living. I wondered – what if a new brand could exist to promote these unique ingredients and create opportunities for the women who’ve treasured them for centuries. What if, in the process, our beauty products could reconnect us with humanity and with nature? From there, TAIA was born, and whilst our mission is to support the preservation of the botanicals and to create these opportunities; the core of our vision is really reconnection. I believe that when we reawaken to ourselves and to the sacredness of life, our lifestyles and choices changes, and everything else falls into place.
How have your travels impacted your perspective on beauty products and creating your own?
There’s a Tibetan quote that says travel is the return to essentials – it’s the perfect way to describe it because travelling has made me appreciate the joy that comes from experiences and not necessarily possessions. It’s also enabled me to meet women whose beauty routines are incredibly simple! Both aspects have shaped my own journey to becoming more minimalist in my lifestyle choices and ultimately it’s helped me to create products that are rooted in intention and simplicity.
It’s incredible that you’ve documented other women’s stories – what has been the most influential story to you
There was an incredibly inspiring South Sudanese woman who made tear up and smile at the same time. She was telling me about an abusive relationship that she had to leave. Her husband had become more and more jealous with the money she was earning from her natural products business. He was spending her profits on drinking elsewhere too. She told me about the day that she found the courage to leave her husband, taking her four kids with her. As she described her difficulties, she also smiled because she was happy that she had made it out of her most dis-empowering situation of her life. Nothing was easy about any of it – it made me both tear up and smile because her strength was just out of the ordinary and she simply chose courage. Today that’s a phrase that stays with me everywhere I go – it’s on my wall, my phone, our website, everywhere – choose courage – it really helps me to keep going.
What are your hopes for the TAIA?
In terms of our journey, I’m hoping to grow a strong customer base that enables us to expand and create our first Eastern African base so as to partner directly with more women’s groups and to manufacture the purest and highest-quality oils ourselves. As a brand, I’m ultimately hoping to engage consumers in the art of creating and mind-fully consuming beauty products. The goal is to be authentic and to also reflect the vibrant positive energy of the communities and the African lands that we traverse.