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Mawunyaga’s Kinky Hairstyle

Image of Miriam Felix, Owner & CEO of Black & Daring (self-empowerment & natural hair products)
Miriam Felix, Owner & CEO of Black & Daring (self-empowerment & natural hair products)

MY name is Mawunyaga, which means, God is Great, in Bantu. I live in an African village, with my many brothers and sisters and my many mothers and fathers. Yes, that’s how it is. My extended family is also family.

Today is an exciting one for me. My Ugogo (grandmother), is coming to spend the entire day with us. She lives a few huts away. She is a revered family member. She is very wise. What I like most about her though are the stories she tells me when I sit in her laps to comb my coarse, dark-brown hair. She tells me stories about my ancestors; who are still very much alive with us today. They play a major role in our family life. We seek advice from them on important decisions. We bring them closer to us with our cultural traditions, our dances, songs and folklores.

My younger brother, Haben, which means, Pride, in Bantu, knows better than to laze around on a day like this. He sometimes helps me with fetching water, after he comes from tending the cattle with my uncle, who is also one of my many fathers.

We skipped along the dirt path, where the scorching mid-morning sun had widened the cracks in the baked mud. I kept closely to the sides of the trail, where a few green shrubs still managed to defy the scorching heat. They soothed the soles of my naked feet. Thankfully, today, the communal village pool was not crowded with other villagers. We were able to quickly fill our pots with water and hurry back home. I still had to fetch wood for cooking. My Umama (mother) would be preparing a meal consisting of maize, pumpkin and potatoes. She will also be roasting meat. Hopefully I would be able to get a bigger portion today, my Ugogo would be having lunch with us and that always calls for a feast.

Comb, butter, small bench and mirror, I said to myself, as I gathered the things I would need to comb my hair. Today, I added a mirror to the list. My Ugogo will be telling me about our traditional hair care practices before slavery. She said that many of our present-day traditions were handed down to us. She will also be giving me a traditional hairstyle, handed down from generation to generation. I cannot wait to see what it is. My Ugogo knows a lot about everything, I think. Like the other girls in my village, my hair is coarse and short. We use butter made from the nut of trees to keep it moisturized and protected from the scorching sun. Oh, how I love to attend our traditional ceremonies. The older women would wear very intricate hairstyles, adorning their hair with beads, feathers and wooden pins.

I hear a familiar voice. Ugogo, Ugogo, my other siblings shouted excitedly, skittering out of the hut. I followed in hot pursuit. The ancestral sounds of drums could be heard in the distance. The cackling of the firewood beneath the big black pot, meant lunch. My unplaited hair meant a traditional hairstyle I can’t wait to see, plus my alone time with my Ugogo. I already had my mirror waiting, waiting to see how my Ugogo would gently and carefully create my traditional hairstyle.

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