Sunlight Soap – Botswana

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (HBO, Sundays)

Last night I watched the HBO series “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency”. If you missed the pilot, it is soon to be released on DVD. It’s very cute, keeps the feeling of the original books and actually looks like it was filmed in Botswana. And how does this relate to soap?

The main character, Mma Ramotswe (played by Jill Scott) has a sort of boyfriend, JLB Matekoni (played by Lucian Msamati), who had a birthday. When given some after shave he said he didn’t really need it, because he uses “Sunlight Soap”.

Back in 1885, William Lever and his brother James started Lever Brothers in England. They created a soap using vegetable oils (rather than tallow) and called it “Sunlight Soap”. By 1888 they were making 450 tons of it weekly. It was so successful that the location of their facility became known as “Port Sunlight”.

Lever Brothers grew, acquiring other soap manufacturing businesses (including Pears Soap) and in 1930 merged with a Dutch margerine company, Unie, becoming Unilever.

Sunlight Soap was one of the earliest internationally marketed soaps and is still sold. In many places it is sold as a laundry soap or detergent, but is still used as a personal soap in many countries – apparently including Botswana!

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