The African child……………. What hairstyle?

It was a bright Saturday afternoon, I dropped my children at the salon to have their hair done. The youngest one; T3, the one that will kill me with questions one of these days if care is not taken  read this for example,  tried all the tricks in the book to escape the visit to the salon but without success. I laughed inside of me and thought, if only this girl knew all the tricks that I, her mum had in my kitty and still did not succeed in escaping the weekly hairdressing ritual when growing up, she would just give up and make the most of the situation by cooperating and enjoying enduring it.

Growing up, there was no weaving of hair, (weaving came later with the migration of Northerners who worked as Maiguards, accompanied by their wives who introduced the milder hair plaiting style called weaving)what  we had was the almighty painful ‘didi’,

Almighty didi

you know, that one that not even the tiniest of your hair escapes the painful clutch of the ‘onidiri’ the hairdresser , I am talking about the type that even your eyebrows are plaited along with the hair on your head (those with bushy eyebrows will testify to this I am sure)and as if the pain was not enough, you also had to endure the odor, scent of the inner recesses of the underneath of the onidiri,

T3 enjoying the perfumed inner recesses of the underneath of Naijamum

because it is essential that your head be gripped tightly in between their two thighs to get the best result. And also this was an ordeal that would take a minimum of two hours if the onidiri is good and fast. If the onidiri was ‘wicked’ as we used to think she was,  she would from time to time give you a knock on the head with her ‘cutting comb’ ‘ilarun’

Cutting comb (ilarun)

to make you cooperate by keeping your head still. No wonder we had a permanent runny nose when we were growing up( from crying from weekend to weekend).

A typical Saturday was a day set aside for hairdressing, or hair plaiting if you like. After breakfast, the onidiri would come with her tools, we would in turn get ready for her, she would usually commence her business of the day starting with my Mum’s hair followed by all the females in the house and we had quite a few being an extended family system, aunties, cousins, nieces, house helps in fact every female member of the household.

One of my tricks was to be the last to have my hair done although this was what the onidiri herself wanted,she would not want me to be the first in the queue so that I will not infect her with ‘bad market’ and all the time I would start praying frantically for some life threatening emergency to happen so that I would escape and go free for that weekend. But Sorry, nothing of such ever happened. When it would almost be my turn, I would sneak out and run away, but some busybodies would outrun me and drag me back. Not giving up, I would cry so hard and so loud and roll on the floor, that too would not work but it would sometimes make my Mum buy a whole crate of soft drink, to bribe me with,( and these were the days when two children used to share a bottle). In between sobs, I would consume the whole crate almost half of the crate and I would still refuse to give the onidiri easy access. The onidiri would be exasperted but would dare not leave because plaiting of my hair was a tacit condition for her retainership by my mum.

My final trick was to beg to do ‘kiko’ this was the one done with thread, the Chimamanda Ngozi

Adichie’s favourite, but that too had its own downside, after doing it,  I would develop boils at the back of my head, I would not be able to lay down to sleep for about four to five days after the hair plaiting and my neck would be in a permanently stretched position like a giraffe’s. I would beg to go back to didi. The cycle continued until my mum gave in to my request to have my hair cut and after a while I could not stand being mistaken for a boy as a result of the new hair cut, so I started growing my hair again and the cycle resumed.

So when I look at T3, and her  ajebota style of crying, I just laugh and wonder,is this mild whimpering what they call crying? I can  bet that she has never rolled on the floor before, she has never cried till she would lose her voice.

To the discussion at hand, T3 just got back from the salon laughing and skipping, I asked her if she had stopped crying; Trust her to answer my question with another question….

T3: Who was crying?

Me: Where  you not the one crying that you did not want o have your hair done?

T3: But Mum, seriously ( that is the latest expression in use in my house) children’s hair should be left free

Me:What about Mummy’s hair?

T3: (eyes rolling) But Mum, seriously nobody forces them to do their hair.

So what type of hairstyle would you recommend for an African (girl) child or would you go along with T3’s suggestion that children’s hair should be left free?

25 thoughts on “The African child……………. What hairstyle?

  1. Nice write up ma. Although i didn’t suffer from dos old women because my mum always did my hair, but I have experienced it once. Since then I never accepted going anywhere. Except a real salon where i wuld sit on a chair and my hair wuld b made

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  2. ‘So when I look at T3, and her  ajebota style of crying, I just laugh and wonder,is this mild whimpering what they call crying? I can  bet that she has never rolled on the floor before, she has never cried till she would lose her voice.’ you sound like an expert crier! LOL!

    But seriously though, I hated ‘shuku’ because of the odour of that inner recess! Urghh!

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  3. Infact… This brought back a lot of memories and I can perfectly relate with all these. I remember then when one weave strand will cost us 5kobo!
    I remember mum and the kiko. I dreaded those moments.

    However, these days, I must confess that I’m so unhappy about d kind of hair I see on children.
    For crying out loud, what is a 8 month old doing with tiny braids?
    That’s so sad!

    Children should be left with their natural hair with simple weavings and sometimes just packing neatly with hair accessories.
    They can look good if the hair is well maintained and treated. That’s whay I practice on my two princesses.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a delightful way to share the intricacies of hair-weaving, Nigerian style, esp when contrasted with how your daughter’s generation view the “punishment” that passes for hair styling! And I must repeat that I do enjoy your no holds-barred, freewheeling and funny style of writing.

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  5. African hair – that’s a subject that every woman can relate to. Have your read Americanah by Ms Adichie? Plenty of relatable stories of african hair there.

    My mother didn’t grow my hair at all so I went though pry and secondary school years with short hair. I only started growing my hair when I was 18. Over the years I have tried so many styles, I loved the adimole the most as the style suits me, also didn’t take much time to braid. – just like the koroba in the post.
    I think there are many hair products now to soften children’s hair so it doesn’t hurt as much when combing – but if I have to choose, I’d go with T3’s choice 🙂

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  6. Hi there, for the past 8 years. I have kept my hair less than 3″ and I love it.
    The memory of the pain imposed on my scalp as a child might have a lot to do with this. Growing up in Nigeria, every Saturday morning, My dear mother thought she was making us look pretty by sending us to Mama Yemisi to plait our hair. This was torture!
    Thanks for this piece.

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  7. I’m visiting your blog for the first time and I’m enjoying the ride. This post brings back memories of Saturday morning torture, I had and still have a tender scalp with coarse hair- recipe for pain. Funny thing is, these days my favourite hairstyle is didi and I carry it all the time, weaves are my new torments.

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  8. As much as possible, leave your child’s hair free – wash, moisturise and comb with wide-tooth comb while wet (if your child has natural chemical-free hair). If you must plait it, then a simple cane-row or two strand twist should do. They still have a long way to go with all this hair business, so let them enjoy while they’re young.

    That’s my own view anyway.

    [Ps. Thanks for visiting and following my blog]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. lovely post,

    hair braiding is always an adventure. we specialize in removing braids, weaves, twists and dreadlocks safely. people don’t like to discuss the removal process much, but it can just as painful. let us know how we can be of service to your viewers.

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  10. Pingback: My children’s big mummy. | whatkindofchildisthis

  11. Aww..although am a guy and can’t say I understand the plight of u females..however I had younger sister who loathed going to the salon.lool..now I understand better..on a much lighter note, I think my favorite of those hairstyles would be all back or two steps, but I don’t know of they are less painful than did tho..nice piece naija mum..well done.

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