MY wife had gone to the city centre and she was calling me about some document she had forgotten to take with her. She wanted me to read a certain reference number on that document and send it to her.
She said, “…the document is in the handbag which I keep close to my hair in the wardrobe.” By ‘her hair’ she, of course, meant her wig. My first instinct was to tell her that her hair must be on her head, but I know my wife; she would not think it was funny. So I open the big wardrobe that has three doors (more than two thirds is, of course, occupied by her stuff) and is built into the wall.
There are many handbags of various colors, but true to her word, there is one handbag that is hanging closer to a set of wigs ranging in color from golden yellow to jet black. I do her assignment and as I put back the handbag, I note that there is a box with more hair, ‘Rastas’, I believe they are called.
Some are new and some appear to have been used, just removed from the previous round of the rasta hairstyle. I do not mind the rasta style when it is already in place but it’s a lot of pain if you are the one to pay for it. It is expensive.
Problem number two with rastas is the time involved in the making of the braids. It takes up to a whole day! My wife has a favorite Masai who sometimes comes home to do the braids. I don’t like the way she puts her head on this guys knees… there’s going to be questions asked if I ever have a Masai-looking kid. The pain doesn’t end there.
That very night, my wife will start saying, “Mmasai leo amevuta sana nywele, kichwa kinaniuma!” What I really would like to say is, “Serves you right!” but instead I say “Pole sana.”
After day two, the tension in the hair relaxes and now my wife is happy to go anywhere to show off the Masai’s handiwork. It’s all smiles as everyone congratulates her on her new look. Two nights later it is complaints to me again as ‘mba’, pronounced ‘m-ba’ starts.
Her scalp itches like hell in the heat and she wants to remove the rastas that were so painstakingly made. And I’m glad that this time it was her ‘vikoba’ money that paid for it.
As she pokes long thin objects into her hair to scratch her itching head, I wish to say something sarcastic but I’m too old and wise to start a foolish, unproductive fight… I was very busy the last few days and I must confess I’m not sure whether the golden hair that my wife has on at the moment is her real hair done in a saloon or another of her wigs…whichever the case, she looks fabulous.
So I’ll admit that my wife may be a ‘normal’ woman who has not gone to the extremes of the modern day generation as my friend described it: African women are born with their ‘kipilipili’ hair which retains its rigid shape regardless of the wind or rain.
Even when it is as big as the Afro, it will still defy gravity, keep clear of the face and not impede vision in any way. But the African woman goes to the salon, stretches, elongates and softens it until it is limp and no longer self supporting.
And then the hair, being long and soft, will start falling over her eyes and every now and then the lady will have to shake her head to clear that strand of hair that is falling over her left or right eye, just like the celebrities of the West.
Occasionally the lady will use one of her manicured hands to clear that offending strand of hair. Sometimes having gone to all this trouble of ‘refining’ her hair, she will have to buy additional accessories such as a hair band or ribbon to control her now unruly hair! You think it strange that we can now have black African blondes, well, (to quote the late former President of the US, Ronald Reagan,) ‘you ain’t seen nothin yet!’ Hair can now be colored bright yellow, blue or green.
If you add beads and what-nots, the variations are infinite. Those colors would make a parrot proud. After several cycles of chemical processing; retouching, bleaching, waving, coloring, washing, drying, rolling etc, each with its own characteristic smell…oops, I mean ordour, there comes a phase I like most, when the hair has to be cut. For a while, before it grows back, we have some peace.
One of these days when I’m itching for a fight with the wife, I’ll suggest that she does one of the traditional hair styles, twende kilioni, as preparation for attending a wedding reception. (The style is now, apparently reserved for men; especially footballers and musicians.
Times change, don’t they?). She had ‘twende kilioni’ when I first met her that many years ago and I thought she was stunning… Hair is big business: if we could reclassify hair dressing salons as factories we would now probably be one of the most industrialized countries in the world!