It was heavenly. It was bliss. It was soothing to the soul and to my skin. It was a spiritual massage of sorts. For a good two hours plus, my daughter was plaiting my hair. A simple carpet style, no extensions or weaves, just my natural kinky air twisted as has been done for generations before. It was more than a mother-daughter moment, it was simply THE MOMENT.
Twenty-one (21) years ago, when I touched my extended very pregnant tummy, I would dream my life with the child to be born. A baby girl it must be, and it was. I imagined myself plaiting her hair, and going places with her. I saw her doing my hair when she grew older and as I aged! She would count each hair string, and touch the greying pieces with meaning and love. As she grew up, I simply had no time or skill to teach her hair plaiting. She self-taught. She does plait her own hair, and today, oh yes today, the long awaited day arrived.
As we sat for hours today, we travelled our world with ease, chatting as her hand navigated my head, deciding on the best way to approach the task at hand. We talked about my sisters and how we used to do hair in the village. We chatted about sisi Gladys, Mai Yona, and how she used to do tight knots that you would literally cry. We laughed about the pain of beauty, and the myriad choices we have with African hair.
As she picked the comb, and started the first row, our conversation shifted to food. It was random conversations about vegetables, shopping and preservation of food in this part of the world. We had a huge discussion about the GMOs and the impact on food quality and nutrients, the impact on our pockets as consumers and how it all seems to be market driven technology. We almost signed a pact of sorts, as we decided to buy from the local street farmers as much as possible. Maybe we should mark our calendars for dates the when the local farmers food market is in the neighbourhood. The comb dropped, and so we dropped this conversation and drifted on, freely.
We drowned in the joyous moments of silence. I almost took a power nap. A little dozing and nodding. Oh no, mum, keep your head straight! I was bathed in this love and tranquility of her presence. The world stopped and nothing matter. Bliss.
Yes, an advert flashed on TV and it was about all these famous guys who are supporting “He for She”! Oh, that sparked a deep conversation about feminism and Emma Watson. We recalled our participation and chanting in the March for Gender Equality in New York at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in March this year. This was another level of mother daughter connecting. We recalled the many places we have travelled together since she was young, as I push the agenda for women and girls around the world.
She stopped plaiting, with comb in hand, and with this clearest voice she said: “You know what mum, I like it so much that dad and mukoma Munashe can stand up for me in my life. But you know what, they are not going to be around me every minute of my life. I have to learn to stand up for myself, decide for myself and speak out for me”. I almost gave her a standing ovation.
As she reached the other side of my head, finishing the few lines left, we were both hungry. We made plans for lunch. Yes it had to be sadza and chicken, and I was to cook for her. I could tell that she had unfinished business with me.
She plainly and pointed asked what my plans for the future. I knew it was not a simple conversation. We had reached that depth of trust, friendship and respect. I had to be honest enough though I was not prepared for such a question. For sure, I will continue to struggle and give my best to ending child marriage. Actually its about girls and young women growing up to be the best of who they are and want to be. I realised that I am making commitment that transcends any other public pronouncement I may have made. Yes, and I hope one day grow zumbani commercially, this indigenous plant in my village which is treated as weed and yet has diverse use in everyday life.
After the tasty meal, I looked in the mirror and simply smiled. We laughed. I know that plaiting hair is not about fashion, it is a safe space for crucial conversation. Thank you Farirai, you have a good hand. Oh yes its true, my hair has some strands of grey.
(c) Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, 2015