Dawbies in Africa


11 Nov 2012


We have made a few interesting discoveries about hair since arriving in Namibia:

1)   Fine European hair does not cope well in the climate here

2)   Africans have naturally short, thick hair which copes very well indeed

I (Kate) have made a comment in a previous blog about how the children (and some adults) here are constantly amazed at how ‘soft’ my hair is and often feel the need to touch and stoke it to prove it once again. Let me tell you, after our trip to Etosha National Park they would have had a different experience!

Sitting in the back of the safari bus, Mike and I were in constant wind during the three days. Safari vehicles are made to look at animals, with windows that pull down quite low so there is no air conditioning. Consequently on hot days the windows are let down even when there are no animals to look at in order to let the breeze in. This constant wind combined with the heat and sheer dryness of the atmosphere (some days humidity levels as low as 4%) completely evaporated any moisture I had in my hair so that it resembled and felt like straw. For the first time in my life, I am using hair conditioner; it is the only way my hair will feel like hair not rope.

When you look at pictures or photos of African men you will notice that their hair is short. This is not because they are constantly at the barber’s getting it trimmed. It just does not grow long, ever. So what to do when Mike needed a hair cut? In true missionary style, Kate became hairdresser for the night and cut his hair. (Which hair do I hear some of you saying? – how rude!). Even if I say so myself, I didn’t do too bad a job as he still looks quite respectable. In speaking with missionary families here in Windhoek sent from other parts of the world, some of them had hairdressing as part of their missionary training when they were being sent out long term – not a bad idea.

Just as African men have short hair, so do African women; about ear length seems to be as far as it goes. It grows afro style – straight out.

Hairdressing / hair design for women seems to be quite a big business. If they want longer hair they must add it artificially, weaving it into their existing hair in similar fashion to hair extensions back in Australia. The process is lengthy (up to 12 hours worth of plaiting if you want a style with thin braids) and we are told quite painful, as the hairdresser must weave your own hair very tightly and firmly into the additions in order for it all to stay. “

Cheaper hair is artificial, more expensive hair is either from Brazil or India. Generally girls tend to have their own hair plaited in very thin braids in a number of different directions and styles, while the older girls / women go for the longer hair additions. There seems to be a great variety in the way this can be done. A change of hairstyle is required about once a month. What this has meant for us is that we do not recognise some girls after they get their hair ‘done’ – they just look so completely different. We have attached some photos to try and show you the variety of possibilities.