Saturday, 24 November 2012

Hair today gone tomorrow!

I don’t think I have written much about “hair” in Ghana and it’s a significant part of life. Children and students at school, of any age, have shaved heads. There is no danger of head lice here. Maybe this is something that should be considered at home, although, probably,  it would be contravening children’s human rights to demand they remove all their hair. Nobody seems to mind and you don’t notice after a while, that none of the pupils have hair. Most have good shaped heads and the style suits them.
Men shave their heads too. You don’t often see men with hair. Most work manually and become filthy during the day. Bathing is easier without hair. There are a few Rastafarians around, but not many in these parts. They have plenty of hair, of course, which is mostly coiled under large headgear.  I have not met any Rastafarians and know little of their culture.
Women’s hair is an enormous industry here. Like seamstresses, there are many hairdressers who all have small salons around towns and villages. Some women have very little hair and often what they have is not good quality due to damage from plaiting and it rarely being exposed to light and air! Others have a lot and the texture varies. There are various choices for wearing hair. Some women keep it very short and often wear a cloth around their heads like a scarf. Others wear wigs. Understandably, they vary in quality by price and how well they fit. Some look dreadful and others much better. As they are all synthetic, they tend to be shiny and look very black.

Women who can afford it have their hair woven regularly. I think it is like extensions, although I have never had any!! You buy the hair pieces and they are woven/plaited into the natural hair you have. These stay in for as long as you like, usually weeks but you need to have them washed at the salon. There are advantages to this, like you can totally change your appearance every couple of weeks. The process takes a few hours as they need to undo the old piece and wash your hair before they work on the new one.  These weaves can look really good and natural. Some people, usually younger women, have their hair braided close to their heads. Often they will have extensions added to the braids so that they appear as lots of long, thin, tight plaits. When I have seen this being done, there have been two or three hairdressers working on one head. It takes hours and they pay a very few Cedis for this service.
I have had people touch my hair and pull it to see how strong it is. You don’t often see grey hair and I imagine mine grows more quickly than Ghanaian women’s hair. I have never seen anyone have their hair cut with scissors except in Accra and then that was another white person. Cutting “European” hair is something hairdressers up here won’t attempt. They have no experience or training for it. I daresay a brave one may take clippers across my scalp but we would both need to be very brave or foolish!! Layering straight hair demands different skills. The “scalping” I have had on a few occasions in Accra would make any good English hairdresser pale in horror. However, people still recognise me, so it can’t have been that bad!

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