An Ode To Kenyatta Market : Black Hair Braiding Culture in Kenya!!

Photo by Josephine Were 

Photo by Josephine Were 

Now for all of you who are not from Nairobi, Kenyatta Market is the hub of hair braiding. In a few hours, you get to sit on a plastic chair, and your head is tossed from side to side as two women, one at the front, the other at the back, section off your hair, and wrap it in made-in-China synthetic braiding hair.

Photos from various sources

Photos from various sources

The third woman, wa kudhiro, rests one leg on your armrest, and plants the other firmly on the ground - leso wrapped around her waist and tucked between her thighs for decency's sake. Her task is to dhiro, that is to finish off the ends of the braid. Her motion: split braid, twist, rub-on-thigh. Repeat. 

And so the bass is set, and the rest of the rhythm beats on. Over the course of a few hours, you get to listen to symphonic dialects of Kenyan languages that are not your own. You soak in the tantalizing aroma of chips-in-a-polythene-bag and nyama choma (roast meat), and wafts of hot gossip breath fired in heated debates between the women. Every now and then you catch a waft from the rotting garbage in the nearby dumpsite. Your eyes are fed to forlorn floating pieces of hair in the sewers that run between stalls, or if you are lucky enough to be seated facing the right direction, you can watch all types of women walk by. Some boast freshly done braids, others meekly don a head-scarf and are led on my vivacious sales-ladies who approach you soon after you hop off the bus and say: "Mummy kuja stall 34, tutakufanyia bei nzuri, hata chagua size saaii". (Mummy come to stall 34, we'll give you a good price, you can even choose the size of your braids right now)

Photo by Anchie of Anchie Lifestyle

Photo by Anchie of Anchie Lifestyle

Hmph! Kenyatta Market! You get to meet interesting walking sales-people too. Ladies, you can buy anything from hair ties, to mwikos (cooking spoons), to handbags. You could even have your manicure and pedicure done while you wait. If you are lucky, you might bump into a few friends from school or church too. 

Photo by Anchie of Anchie Lifestyle

Photo by Anchie of Anchie Lifestyle

Kenyatta Market is YELLOW: light, energy, business, entrepreneurs, hard-working entrepreneurial women-fresh-from-rural-Kenya, food, sewage, gossip, shopping, beauty, diversity. That's what it is. 

I got these twists done in Kenyatta Market...(*more embarrassing pictures*)

Photo by Tabitha Tongoi

Photo by Tabitha Tongoi

And these ones...

Photo by Tabitha Tongoi

Photo by Tabitha Tongoi

I am a veteran! Clearly!

I digress though. When I moved abroad, I didn't have access to anything quite like it. And so I took on the task of my hair care courageously. Okay, that was a bit dramatic. But you get me. 

Coming soon...how I transitioned from relaxed hair to natural hair...

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Happy New Week! :-) 

Tabitha.