By Zara Mohammed Kareto
There is a sense within our society that what is modern is what is western, save years back, we still had certain aspects of our culture and practices yet untainted by the relentless pervasion of western civilization. What is left now is a hole filled with profound nostalgia, which people strangely seem to ignore and only mentioned with least conviction.
I could recall some weeks back when I told a Kanuri Friend of mine who was about to get married to plait the elegant kanuri hairstyle “K∂la Yakk∂” on her Wedding Day, but to my surprise she laughed and said “you must be kidding me because, I can’t do such a thing on my Wedding Day because I want my wedding in a classy way”. But, am sure it’s a mistake to treat lightly the appearance or fashion element of a culture in a trivial manner.
In the olden days, some cultures do use the hairstyle to differentiate between different categories of women as to whether they are married, spinsters or divorcees depending on the plaited hairstyle. But, now one might ridicule my adoption at such a serious tone in discussing such a subject as hairstyle.
The “K∂la Yakk∂” Kanuri hairstyle is a symbol of youthfulness, chastity and fertility. We should have been proud to give it to the world but we lazily let it slip from our holds, probably lost to you forever. Soon we shall only catch glimpses of it in vague representation of the quintessential Kanuri maiden our young women are now reduced to the aggressive application of chemicals and attachments for hair extensions to keep in vague. It lives them inwardly inadequate, chasing after an unattainable or archetypal looks.
It is not as if those traditional “Gotto” Kanuri hairstyles as it’s known for its flexibility and stylish form, that vary from the casual, professional to the loud exquisite look. Its exotic appeal is most pronounced when donned by a spinster, portraying a dignified desire for a matrimonial partner.
The costly nature of the modern hair care did nothing against its proliferation because the norms and the traditional hairstyles have become the oddity. It seems very imprudent that in a society where it is a tremendous challenge to meet the costs of basic needs, one should spend large sum for a hairdo, especially when there are sensible alternatives. It is admirable that some celebrities have demonstrated the magic at the natural hair (Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey and Alicia keys).
There is also strenuous task of caring and maintaining the braided or straightened hair. Usually the hair wilts from the application of various unreliable cosmetics, breaks off and shortens from exertion, necessitating the use of attachment.
Instead of women to save some part of this money, use it on their basic needs and use some portion of that money to obtain elegant looks from our traditional hairstylists, they choose to lose good money to the manufacturers of often useless hair treatment cosmetics.
From this, you will agree with me that, had it been we spotted the curves of the “K∂la Yakk∂” a donned splendid coiffure or the “Gotto” or the elegant “Shangalti” and others; we will have been admired and copied not like the other way round. Just like the Indian Sari, the Jamaican locks or the short hair of a South African beauty.
Kareto writes from Mass Communication Department, University of Maiduguri