|Plum and Cherries|
2017 is a great year for natural hair enthusiasts. There is a lot to talk about. Where to get natural hair products cheaply, which YouTube videos are worth watching,which shampooing regimes to follow.
I get stopped on the street by beautiful girls who obviously have spent 5k on their hair this month. They want to know; how do you get your hair to curl like that?
And we end up having a great chat, I tell them how many minutes you should leave shampoo in your hair, which direction you should comb your hair after conditioning to ensure the curls are defined properly.
We talk about how hard it is to give volume to dry hair.
Such wonderful times.
I feel like Vera Sindika, almost turned famous. We exchange numbers and continue to exchange tips on whatsapp.
Sometimes hair becomes the perfect icebreaker to any awkward situation. It turns me from a gloomy, no morning person to a cheerful life of the party.
No. It doesn't.
And whenever someone starts to talk about hair or asks me about hair any time of the day, my mood just turns from sunny with a bit of cloud to cloudy with thunder and lightning.
Not because I think it is an insult to my intelligence to be chatting about a dead part of the body, it's just boring and I'm not a naturalista.
I just have hair that curls naturally, and until the natural hair wave hit the Indian Ocean shore I was peacefully minding my own business. The only trouble was the touts asking why I don't ask my boyfriend for hair salon money.
And elder women telling me how a little blow-dry would improve my appearance.
And my mother' friends asking why I didn't want to turn heads when I walk the streets.
And older men, people's fathers saying to me:
"You are a nice girl, why don't you comb your hair?"
Have a look at this scenario, 1992 in a school of 500 over Bantu school children, you are the only one that looks like a Cushite, or a highland Nilote.
And every Monday morning during parade Mr. Karimi reminds everyone that hair should be?....
"One inch from the head!" You retort.
For both boys and girls.
Trouble is, you hair grows more than a few inches every week.
No one is going to give you money for a kinyozi every week...
So my uncle would shave me using scissors. He hated it. He would leave it to the last minute and curse the whole time he was shaving, while I held up the tin lamp-kagwatira.
|this is a tin lamp|
In school, the girls, after confirming I had not put chemical, or hair glo, decided I had mucous hair. Not the mucous membrane. We had not learnt about that yet.
The mucous that kids in the plot have when they open the gate and you are wondering whether to apologise to your visitors for the view, help the kid blow the nose or close the door and move the party to the local coffee house.
So I became the Shumary girl with mucous hair. Or cow hair. Not the family cow you name Daisy.
A really big cow that is probably wild and head-butts all other cows.
I retreated deeper into my shell
I would have liked to wear a hat.
When I was not feeling like Nyameni a big brown cow, I was feeling like the bad continuous mucous that you get when you have been crying and keeps coming and coming and your cuff is no longer useful as a nose blower.
In highschool, when I guess I was at optimum health and youth, my hair grew and grew and a classmate, one of the witty ones wrote in my book that I need to get checked, my hair might be a cancerous growth.
And my mother and grandmother felt very proud. They looked at it with wonder. Their friends talked about it.
When we went visiting friends, or had funerals, I had to have my hair blow-dried the day before.
The women would sit and stare and say:
'Hi, the daughter of Nyawira was given hair.'
"Hi, ii it is past the shoulders.
And so I would sit there, while they talked about the hair.
And if it was the hot months and my hair had the brown tint, they would discuss the reasons:
'Is she eating eggs?'
"Yes, she never lacks eggs."
'And whyis it? It is very red.'
"I also don't know."
Then July would come and it would be black again and the conversation would change.
-he he he, this one is like for an Indian.-
And cucu would smile
Cucu told me one time,
"When I got married I hoped to give birth to a girl."
"So I could plait their hair. But yours is very slippery."
And one day a girl staying with us was straightening her hair with a tin cup, I said I also wanted mine straightened. When she did one hair knot, it fell off.
It was a catastrophe. I had to be shaved.
I didn't mind.
But my cucu was not amused. "All the money I've spent on that hair, buying oil." The girl didn't stay very long with us after that.
It wasn't her fault really, how was she to know my hair could not take the tin cup heat?
After high school, I discovered an Ethiopian Salon and went in for a blow-dry and they used a flat iron to finish it off.
Cucu told me:
"Aai, that one you have put something."
I was furious. Where would I get money for a perm?
So I went out and said to Toni, the local barber:
-Toni, I want you to cut off all of my hair-
"Do you get mad sometimes?''
-No I'm serious. I'm tired of long hair.
"You have no idea what you are asking me. I will not cut your hair, never."
-But I'm paying you!-
"I don't want your money."
"Suit yourself, I'll have it cut."
I went to a barber that didn't know me and asked them to cut it all. He didn't hesitate.
And for a few months I walked around looking like a Somali long- distance- runner.
When it grew into an afro, I almost got a husband. One day I was walking in town minding my business when a man stopped me. Handsome man with an accent.
He poured compliments on me. Said he wanted to take me back with him to Zambia.
I had just bought a phone. He took my number.
Early the next morning I found several missed calls on my phone. He called but I was yet to recognise my ringtone. He didn't call again.
But my Afro grew.
And one day, while visiting friends, one of the boys said: We should wash Cecilia's hair, I'm sure it coils.
So they washed my head and of course it coiled and coiled and I stood there with water in my face while they looked and asked was I a Somali? I had not met my father yet, so I wasn't sure.
But I liked the curly me.
The Afro would add 3 three years to my real age, with curly hair it was hard for anyone to guess.
1001 experiments later, I learnt how to do my hair. I don't need to fuss over it. I just let it be.
And then the natural twist out wash and go fad began. And I was getting attention once more, and the hardest thing is to explain to a naturalista that I honestly didn't do a straw set, I don't even wrap my head in a silk scarf at night.
So don't ask me about hair
Unless you are Sobiero and will give me a jar of flaxseed wax to replace my synthetic one, let's talk about something else. Or share whatsapp jokes, I won't mind. I won't hate you. I won't avoid you.
I don't handle attention very well I am a shy little bug that likes to blend in. I've had a mind to go back to straight hair, or get muongezo, just to avoid conversation.
Now I can exclaim how big this article is for someone who hates hair talk.
ArtAttack Studio for letting me hang out in their studio as I typed this.
Iris Styling for making me into a lady
Hans Wear, Wangige market for the lace vest and shirt