Whilst having a manicure and pedicure at the beauty salon recently, two Chinese women came in to have their hair cornrowed. You should have seen the pandemonium that ensured. The girls working at the salon were panicking because none of them knew how to braid or cornrow hair. Seriously. None of the four girls working in the salon knew how to plait hair. As they continued to fret, the owner of the salon, the "Madam", started to heap mountains of insults on them. "Useless girls. You see why I don't like to employ people. Are you telling me you don't know how to plait hair? So one day if you get your own salon, are you going to turn people away? Useless ..." On and on she rattled.
Meanwhile, the Chinese women were standing in the middle of the commotion, confused and with no idea about the can of worms they had just opened. As the "Madam" continued to rain insults on her employees, I could not help but jump in. "Madam, how can you blame these girls?" I asked. "Look all around your salon. It is full of pictures of Beyonce, Rihanna and Kimora Lee Simmons. And you yourself, I have been coming here for years to do my feet and nails, but I have never seen you with anything other than false hair. Whatever style Rihanna wears on her head, you weave the very same thing. So how can you insult these girls? These days, everyone is weaving or sewing Brazilian hair on their heads, so how can the craft of braiding still be maintained?"
Everybody in the salon looked at me, open-mouthed! Great, I thought. What a wonder opportunity for me to say it as it is. You see, what this "Madam" failed to see was that it is the likes of her, the so-called beauticians, who have made the likes of her employees lose the skill of braiding natural hair. These days, it is all about looking like Beyonce. As I pointed out to the "Madam" (and as she already knew), in Ghana I have been presenting programmes on TV since 1995. Currently I do a live show, three times a week, and thus I am recognised as a "celebrity". (Not my description. And unlike "celebrities" in Hollywood, I live a very simple, natural life. No limos. No bling bling. No champagne lifestyle. Maybe a bit of palm wine now and then, but definitely not the life of a Hollywood "star".)
So, I have been visiting her salon for years, yet, she has not put one picture of me up on her wall? Why? Because I wear my hair natural and do not wear make-up. Thus in her eyes, I am not beautiful like Beyonce, Rihanna or Kimora Lee Simmons. Oh, and on top of all that, I happen to be very, very dark-skinned!
It is very sad, the things happening on the African continent. Each day, we just throw away a bit of our history, culture, and traditional practices. Let me cite you a very disturbing example. Driving to my village, I came across a signboard that almost made me drive my car into the bush--a home for old people! What? In Ghana? Africa? The land of families and communities? An old people's home? So now Africans are going to start putting their old men and women, their mothers, fathers, and grandparents away? To be looked after by strangers? Wow, I was and I am still very dumbfounded by this. This is not the African way. It is not our tradition to send our aged parents to an old people's home where they await death. No, no, no.
In Africa, old people are very much part of the family network. Well, it used to be that way at least. I remember as a child, my grandparents were very much part of my life. Either my mother took us to the village or the family from the village were always with us in the city. Not a week would pass by that I would not see my grandparents. When I think about my childhood, my grandparents (and indeed other members of the extended family) are very much part of those memories. For a long time, Africans lived with their extended families, but these days, like the rest of the world, the nuclear family unit is becoming the norm. …