Anny Osabutey: Why dreaming of an afro hairstyle can be expensive
I am bald. Or as they say in the local Ghanaian parlance, the “Lord” has elected Himself as my barber and in perpetuity. The first time I discovered that I was losing my hair was in 2002, at university. Before that, I wore an afro with a few natural highlights on top. I was born with what was and still describes as ‘mmpese-mpese’ or locks – it is often associated with children depressingly claiming to be gifts from a deity.
I don’t know if there’s any scientific evidence to back it up, but, having grown up in a heavily ritualized community, even being left-handed hurt me a lot in school. A left-handed child was considered “bad” and all sorts of things, so I had the unfortunate experience of always having my fingers hit with plastic “rulers” until my fingers turned red and the fingernails are cracking. And it was so that I would conform to being able to write with my right hand.
Forgive me for taking a short path, but it’s to give some context to my hair and how perception fueled my painful past. The first person I remember having shaved my hair was my late mother. She applied lots of soap to her hair and used a shaving stick, a stainless steel type, to scrape it all off. There wasn’t a single hair on my head and I didn’t appreciate that at all. My “sakora” head was a great source of pleasure for some of my peers, and they were often just waiting to smack it. I had to throw my left leg into the abdomen of a kid who spat into his palm and slapped my head from behind.
I gave her a real”Pad” that day until onlookers intervened and separated us. Since this incident, none of my comrades have slapped my head again. Yeah they made jokes but didn’t have the courage to try to smack him like my head was part of a collection of atompan drums exhibited at a status function. I’ve always had different plans for my hair, so when I found out that portions had started falling out, I did everything in my power to stop it. I checked out hair products from Kotokuraba Market in Cape Coast at Tema Community 5, where I bought different hair products and religiously applied them to the receding parts.
I was even told of a man in Aburi who had saved other people with similar problems to mine, so I was given instructions to go see him. I didn’t make the trip, but I did end up getting two herbal products from him. I was optimistic about the outcome and even dreamed of a hairstyle I had seen in a movie and wanted the same. I even wanted to copy a Roberto Baggio ponytail he wore at the 1994 USA World Cup. That was how desperate I was to save my hair. But after applying these chemicals and being so optimistic about a positive outcome, every time I looked in the mirror, my heart raced with disappointment; different parts of the hair kept falling out and with rapidity. I was deeply hurt. I was wandering around Cape Coast Castle one afternoon when a hair product saleswoman said to me fancifully, “Oh my brother, why did you allow the Lord to apply his scissors to your head – these products that I have made will face the scissors of the Lord in ways you cannot even imagine.
I wasn’t up for her raps, but she kept pushing until I gave in and paid for just one small container. I applied a small portion of it to the back parts right in his presence, but the pain I felt made me jump into the ocean and wash it all off. Right in front of his eyes, I threw the container in a trash can and left. After this encounter, I told myself that nothing was going to work and that the sooner I accepted the situation, the better it would be for me. I went to a store in one of the hallways, got some shaving sticks and took everything apart.
I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and liked what I saw. And it’s been like that ever since. But one Tuesday night, after coming home late from a program at the office, I went to bed and had a rather strange dream. The dream was simple – my hair was back and I had gone to a saloon in Prampram and the boss had given me a mohawk and sprayed the red top. I was excited. I jumped out of bed happily and the first thing I did was put my right hand over my head.
There was no Afro. Perhaps it was the ‘konkonte’ and smoked fish with peanut soup that brought me to Afroland.
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