OPINION | Life in Covid-19 is just like my hair - a mess
When India Arie said I am not my hair, she was clearly not talking about life under the Covid-19 pandemic. For centuries, hair has been politicised and in many cultures, it's a symbol of triumph, wisdom, wealth, health or beauty.
My hair tells a story. For the first time in a long time, my hair is actually political, a sad metaphor.
When lockdown began, I put on a protective hairstyle [Bantu Knots] as I didn’t expect to go out. This hair-do is supposed to protect my hair from exposure of damaging agents such as harsh sun rays or cold weather conditions. I felt that my thick black Afro, like this country, could use a break.
But as days go by, I’m losing confidence and joy in it, as much as I am into what we are trying to achieve with the disaster regulations as a country. Like many people, I saw lockdown as an extended holiday but the reality of the pandemic soon set in. A reality that trickled down from the top of my crown, seeping into every part of my being.
My hair reminds me of how my sanity and sense of security are fading. I have no idea what the future holds, for real this time, and I don’t even know if I will have my life back soon, let alone a job.
In the days of the Great Depression, millions of jobless people became what we call “hobos”, homeless people who wandered around looking for work. In a way, I am starting to feel like… a hobo [sigh].
Not entirely hopeless or homeless, but I am a payslip away from the streets, a title away from wandering by and losing myself to depression. The crazy part is, it’s no one’s fault, just the sign of the times.
I itch and scratch my head at the thought of people in Diepsloot roaming the streets like the country is not trying to flatten the curve. The scene of one uncle sitting outside his shack lamenting his loss of income haunts me. He looked at me and asked, “do you think my stomach stops growling just because there’s Corona?” But I mean, does it?
It has my tummy in knots, the thought that I can’t smoke or drink my problems away, not today, I do not even know when. My hair is still a mess and I can’t go see “woza chomi, I do your hair cheap cheap!”
I wonder if she managed to pay her rent this month, is she okay? Are we OKAY?
Now when I twist my hair, I divide it into sections. Every section reminds me of the different groups of society.
The left front section is the joggers, cyclists and dog walkers flocking to Sea Point in Cape Town and North Beach in Durban. The other side is the Gogos and Mamas queuing for food parcels and social grants in the congested snaking human lines at Olievenhoutbosch. At the back of my hair are the Muslims taking the government to court while Moria shuts its doors. And then there’s the mess that is online education for all… My hair is a mess.
The lines are not straight but they are there and at least I have hair… At least.