The gallery on its own was very beautiful even without the works of art displayed inside. It was so warm and welcoming considering the stormy weather. Its colourful walls looked like a packet of skittles exploded, with each skittle choosing a wall to land on and overtime melting and spreading all over it. One wall was an ocean blue with matching blue blocks and blue benches stationed right in front of it. They blended in so well with the wall that you could almost walk straight into them. Another wall was a very bright yellow. The colour ran from the ceiling and continued unto the floor creating a sort of mustardy carpet. Matching blocks and benches stood still on it too. I loved this space. It felt like home. Not that my home looked anything like this. Actually, my flat has that cool minimalistic thing going on where there is hardly anything in it. And that’s not exactly by choice either.
It was a busy day. Artists, organisers and assistants running from one end of the hall to the other. You could see the sweat dripping off their foreheads and taste the tension in the air. I could hear one of the organisers discussing final arrangements for the launch ceremony with the hostess. ‘Please we must not do any African timing eh.’ He said. ‘The Mayor of Dusseldorf will be arriving soon.’ He carried a bunch of flyers under his arm. One fell to the floor as he walked off to attend to other matters.
I watched the Zimbawean artists as they delicately placed their stone sculptures on the benches, blocks and the floor. There were owls, hippos and chickens. Naked women, old men and objects that no matter how long I stared at them, I could not for the life of me, tell you what they were. All made out of stone. I picked up an owl. It was so tiny and cute I thought I might just buy it. I checked underneath for the price. Then placed it as gently as I could back in its original position and edged away slowly. ‘Haba!’ I thought, ‘All that money for one little stone!’ As I walked past the artists I tried to avoid their eyes. They were sitting nearby sharing a pack of Original Pringles. They looked like they couldn’t care less if I purchaed the owl or not.
I moved on to admire the oil paintings displayed along the gallery floor. I was drawn to a painting of a mother and son. It was titled, The Comforter. The little boy placed his hand on his mother’s head like a healer. There was something really captivating about this painting. There was so much emotion flowing from it. I stared at it for ages. Soaking it up until it was embedded in my memory. Afterall, that was the only way I was going to take it home. Better still, I’ll take a picture.
“I comforted myself in the fantasy that if Madeline and I were stuck on a deserted island where there was no single bottle of shampoo or conditioner to be found, at least I would know what to do”
When I was done staring, I turned around to find Madeline staring at me from the top of the stairs that led to the gallery. We had met earlier. She told me, ‘I study Media but I don’t really get Art. I just came with my friend to help out with the exhibition’. She was dressed in a simple t-shirt, jeans and braids that were almost level with the back of her knees. I smiled up at her.
‘Can I ask you a question?’ She said and took a step towards me.
‘Sure.’ I said and walked up the stairs to meet her.
Her eyes were focused on my hair. She looked curiously at it. ‘What do you do to your hair? It looks so good…so healthy.’
My hair…‘So good’ and ‘so healthy’!! I repeated to myself. These words carried more value than she would ever know . They were words that meant all my hardwork was finally paying off. They played like music in my ears. So sweet! Now I was really excited to tell her all about my hair. I was thrilled she asked because I had so much to say.
‘Well I don’t put any commercial hair products in it.’ I started. ‘What I do is a secret!’
Her eyes popped slightly. I had her attention. She definitely wanted to hear more. So I carried on. Words rushing out and tumbling over one another to be the first out. ‘Sometimes, I wash my hair with just water. No shampoo or anything. And then I condition it with a mayonnaise and olive oil blend…’
I was so pleased with myself and pleased to be passing on my great knowledge of natural hair care that I nearly missed her face transitioning from the look of ‘awe’ to that look that said ‘oh my gosh. Is she for real?!’ I suddenly wished I could pick up every word I had said and swallow them back. Why didn’t I just stop at ‘Well, it’s a secret’? That way I could have left her thinking of me as that mysterious woman with the gorgeous hair rather than the woman that has confused her hair with a sandwich.
Too late. She had made up her mind. I was crazy. I was no different to the old lady with all the many cats who made her will exclusive to them upon her death. ‘How crazy is that! No shampoo??? No conditioner???’ I could hear her thinking as she stylishly walked away from me. ‘Wait! What happened to your hair looks so good, so healthy, huh?!’ I wanted to call out after her. I could feel the warmth rising in my cheeks underneath my made-up face. I knew I was angry. My lips pouted and my nose flared. I held my breath. I was sure that if I let it out I would breathe fire and light up the entire gallery. Ha! If only!
So I comforted myself in the fantasy that if Madeline and I were stuck on a deserted island where there was no single bottle of shampoo or conditioner to be found, at least I would know what to do to keep my hair looking fabulous while I waited to be rescued by strong, muscly and scrumptious looking sailors. She, on the other hand would probably end up marooned on the island with a bird’s nest for her hair. But of course, what was I thinking? What kind of person doesn’t use store bought shampoos or conditioners? And puts food from the kitchen in her hair? Maybe she was right. Maybe I am indeed crazy and not from this planet. I mean I do talk to myself when I’m walking on the street. And when I get caught out, I try to make it look like I was singing. Yeah I know, crazy.
Perhaps my quest for the best way to look after my hair had alienated me from the world of glamorous females who douse their hair regularly in shampoos and conditioners. Instead I had found answers to my hair problems in nature. I had discovered practical solutions for my hair and my health. And I was happy. I searched for the sign leading to the toilets. It directed me to the far end of the gallery. I strutted my way there suddenly noticing how noisy my Jujus were in the large hall. The toilets were empty. I looked in the mirror. My hair was gorgeous today. There was no doubt about that. It had the bounce and fullness I had always wanted. There was no denying it- my hair was beautiful. And if it took being crazy to achieve that, then it was damn well worth it.
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Illustration: Ryan McGuire