The Story

This story is inspired by and dedicated to my late father, Prof. K.F. Msangi, the only African man I know who faithfully and enthusiastically took his young daughter to the market regularly to get her hair braided. He made it his mission to figure out where; he came up with appropriate and interesting hairstyles, and he coached the hair braiders on exactly how he wanted it to look like. At the time when my aunties would marvel with amusement at the idea of him maneuvering these predominantly female spaces all for the sake of my hair (as opposed to asking one of them to take me,) I didn’t think much of it. I knew it was rare and that none of my friends would even dream of their fathers knowing what direction the hair market was in, but it never occurred to me just HOW rare it actually was at the time.

As an adult, I realize what an anomaly my father was and what a huge stance he was making at the time. I also realize that hair braiding markets, as well as several other traditionally female spaces, are often fiercely guarded by women who don’t often allow men much access. These spaces are fully‐functioning cosmoses of their own where most middle‐class African men would only encounter by mistake: and that’s the story that I decided to explore. The drama that ensues when a middle‐class African man stumbles into a foreign cosmos and must join forces with his daughter and participate in what is normally a ‘women’s only’ activity so they can overcome adversity and get her hair done appropriately. Through their journey together, our main character is not only introduced to this new universe, but also gains an understanding of what his daughter’s life is like, forming a special bond that most African fathers are never privy to.