On African Hair

“Did you cut your hair?”

As with all my decisions, deciding to undo my braids was so spontaneous that I was done before I had time to think my decision through. Immediately the last braid fell, I felt a sense of freedom spiced with impending doom. My roommate was so mesmerized at the stubborn Afro that soon materialized and asked to touch my hair. I couldn't help but laugh at the look on her face and it was inevitable that I give her a crash course in kinky hair. I began explaining how it shrinks with humidity or moisture and one had to comb the tiny curls out with heat, and even then it doesn't fall and flow, it simply sits atop your head like a magnificent crown cause you are an African queen. It is so strong yet utterly fragile and leaving it without a protective hairstyle like braiding or cornrows would see it dry out, become brittle and simply fall off. Okay, I just touched the surface, it probably needed a few more crash courses since at the end of my explanation she was just as mesmerized as before if not more.

"Did you cut your hair?" It's just been two days and yet the number of times I have answered this question is a bit startling. Initially, my brain goes, "Why would you even think that?" but instead I say, "No, I undid my braids." This is often followed by a look of confusion probing me to say more. Often I am hurrying off somewhere too lazy to explain the ins and outs of having one of the kinkiest hair types in the world! Yes, you heard me. Laziness is slowly creeping into my bloodstream and to be fair, giving the same explanation over and over is a bit boring. So I have resorted to just saying, "Yes, I did cut my hair." This seems more satisfactory and with a smirk, I buzz off. The truth: I did not cut my hair, I washed it and it shrunk!

Perhaps for every African girl in a foreign place, managing that gorgeous mane atop your head seems like a curse. With every factor against you, your mother simply couldn't have prepared you enough for your delicate hair care. Soon you realize everything is against you. The prospect of having a blowdry in the bathroom was really exciting until I discovered it didn't have a comb and was actually pretty useless for me albeit with modifications. My friend and I set out to find a 'real' blowdry. It soon dawns on us that all blowdryers sold here are the same; No comb. I am crest-fallen. A flat iron simply won't work!

The one thing everyone wishes for is faster hair growth! Except of course for me, since that meant I would have to undo my braids and redo them. With a little hope in humanity, I search for salons that do braids and I soon realize it is a luxury I cannot afford. Let's do some quick math, it costs Ksh 600 to get braids done at home, that is uuhhmmm roughly 6 or 5 USD. The prize here is $100, which is almost 20 times more than what I am used to. With a sad sigh, I realize that I have to do this alone. The fixing, the finishing. I pity my poor hands.

Amazon! Let's just say I have come to love it. I quickly search through and find everything I need, detangler, conditioner, moisturizer, and yes!... braids and beads. I could have saved myself the ridiculously high prices by carrying all this from home but the weight limit at the airport saw me unpack anything relatively heavy. Off went all my bottles of sweet sweet hair care. The feeling of getting a package is exhilarating but I will tell you about that later.

I am like a soldier at war. I have all my ammunition ready to tame my hair even if it is just for a few weeks. This will take me perhaps 3 days since I am on my own. The washing, the detangling the straightening, the braiding. There is a saying in Swahili that says, "Kinyozi hajinyoi" which means, "The barber does not shave his own head" I do believe however that in extreme circumstances, anything is possible. I run the water warm and dump a lot of shampoo on my palm. Let the battle begin!


Add Comment

Comment added, awaiting admin approval.

About ONs

We are a family of young, curious, ambitious artists eager to articulate pertinent issues across all topics. Join us as we tell you stories that make a difference.