HAIR CHRONICLES: THE NIGERIAN STORY 

Auntie Mercy was my final hair dresser. She was the only person that could handle my “nachi” without having me cry so hard. She was gentle and soft spoken in nature, her physical calm nature was evident in the way she handled my tresses. 

It all started when Mummy saw the beautiful hair style of Mama Nkiru’s daughters, she fell in love with it. It was straight braids from the scalp and glossy curly tips. Each strand of hair was adorned with colored beads and tiny bands, it was beautiful. 

My hair history was not very savoury. I had thick full hair and the only person that could handle my hair without making me cry was Mummy. Unfortunately, Mummy was too busy to make my hair all the time so she made efforts to get a hair dresser that could handle my hair. 

From Mma Mbakara whose hands gave me boils around my scalp to Mummy Rose who always gives me extra knocks on the head for crying in her shop. 

Mama Nkiru described Mma Itoro so passionately that Mummy was convinced we had met the “Messiah” finally. The faultless hairdo on Obianuju and Anulika’s head proved Mama Nkiru’s story true.

Mama Nkiru took me to Mma Itoro’s shop at Marian market on a Friday afternoon after school to make the exact hair style her daughters carried. It was an open small space with dwarf walls, there were about ten different open spaces like that on both sides in a straight line. Several women were plaiting the hair of young girls my age, some were standing while some sat on higher stools but they were all talking on top of their voices to each other. They hung big paper pictures of different hairdos on the lone woods used to support their open stalls. I love to admire the pictures on the big paper but Mummy said I am too young to make “adult” hairdos. They also had rolls of shiny rubber threads hung on six inches nail driven on the same wood. 

All the women had more than one extra little girl waiting, their hands moved swiftly as they whipped the threads clockwise. They were all making “thread hair” I was going to be the first in the stall to make “attach” hair, the thought made me smile… 

I looked at Mma Itoro’s space, it wasn’t different from the others. She had a small stool that had different sizes of combs, small mirror, Apple hair cream, Soul mate and sulfur 8. Often she took a little oil from the Apple hair cream container and applied on the girl’s hair as she paid attention to Mama Nkiru who explained the hairdo and occasionally touched my hair. I saw the way she combed the girl’s hair, she pulled the hair and bent the girl’s neck in different directions just to get a straight line. I saw the girl wince and hold tightly to the little stool she was sitting on, I noticed that tears gathered around her eyes as she tightened her legs together. Mma Itoro pulled her hair with reckless abandon, I wondered why she didn’t notice that red veins had circled all over the girl’s forehead. I became so scared, I didn’t like Mma Itoro and I feared she may end up like the others. 

…Mma Itoro pulled my dry “nachi” with her little comb, it was thick and dry. She didn’t care to comb it in parts like Mummy does, she just pulled my hair from roots to the tips vigorously. I suspected my forehead would have been filled with red veins and I started to cry, it was all sobs and sniffs until the pulling out and neck twistings increased then the tears poured.

   “Nsitube? Why are you crying?” Mma Itoro yelled and shook my head hurting me more “Mbok I don’t want any cry cry baby in my shop o” she yelled out and drew a long hiss. I held my mouth with my hand but my tears poured more.
Daddy was the first to notice that my eyes were swollen, he kept asking until I told him “the woman’s hand was painful” 

Daddy and Mummy had a little misunderstanding that night, it was all because of my hair. Daddy told Mummy to pay more attention to my hair and the people   that touched it but Mummy said she is too busy to follow up on my hairdos. 

Daddy insisted that I deserved more attention as the only girl. 

My hair and head was paining me, I couldn’t sleep. My eyes were hurting too and I was so uncomfortable.

Mummy took me to her shop the next day, her sales girl helped me “loosen” my braid. I was happy and sad. Happy because the evil strands were removed but sad because I couldn’t even show Blessing and Otobong my hair in school. 

After work Mummy took me to Koko’s barbing saloon, I sat in his high rotating chair as Koko took down my “Nachi” with several swipes to the back. I didn’t know Mummy will take me to Koko’s barbing saloon, I didn’t know I will lose all my hair in one minute. I knew Mummy was tired of my hair “wahala” and was also tired of quarrelling with Daddy every time I returned from a new hair saloon. I cried that night 

When Auntie Eka introduced Auntie Mercy to Mummy, Mummy thought we should give her a chance. My hair was full again and due for plaiting.

Auntie Mercy handled my hair like no one else ever did, she combed each section slowly and held unto the hair not too tight as she whipped the shiny thread. I didn’t cry throughout and I slept peacefully that night 

 I had found my final hair dresser, there was no turning back.

By 

Adaobi Ezirim. 

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