Eastern Congo: the main thing is the hairstyle, Africa, DW

A great hairstyle must be. Some Congolese prefer to forego eating than the hairdresser. Her dream: long hair like white women. In return, they sacrifice their last money and risk their health.

Sarah Mutesi has only recently been wearing her hair naturally

Everyone has good ones mood in the hair salon La Fidélité in Goma. It is soon weekend, time for new hair. This is to be taken literally, because many Congolese women hide their natural curly hair under artificial strands.

The hairdresser Aline Murairi is enthroned on a leather stool, a customer is sitting in front of her. The stately lady tears up a bundle of synthetic hair and hands the hairdresser strand by strand. From this, Murairi braids long braids and ties the artificial hair to the natural one.

$ 50 for the latest fashions

"I’m styling the ‘clutter’ style here", explains Murairi. This hairstyle is the latest craze in the metropolis of Goma. 50 braids must be spread in a wild mess on the head and tightly attached to the natural hairline. Customers hold their heads out for up to four hours. They pay $ 50 for that. That is more than some in Goma earn per month. Two thirds of the people in Eastern Congo live in poverty.

Good mood in the hair salon "La Fidélité" in Goma. There is a lot to do for hairdressers, especially before the weekend

The hairstyle is not only expensive, but also painful. "Whether or not it pulls when you have braids on your hair depends very much on the skill of the hairdresser", tells customer Gisèle Bagheni. "In any case, the tight braids hurt for the first one or two nights. You can’t sleep there. Then it goes again."

Scratch until it bleeds

Women like Bagheni keep the expensive artificial braids for two months. They cannot wash their heads during this time, otherwise the strands would ruffle. But the skin begins to itch under the synthetic hair. Some women scratch themselves bloody. Bahgeni endures the torments again and again – because she wants to be beautiful and because she doesn’t like her natural hair.

For many African women, artificial hair is part of a successful hairstyle

Artificial strands are just one way that African women get rid of their natural curly hair want. Millions of black women all over the world try to soften their hair with chemical substances and straighten it using a hair dryer or a hot iron. Her dream is to have long, soft hair like white women. They know that from western films and from advertising.

But the chemical means are controversial. The skin burns and the hair breaks if the hairdresser applies too much of it or leaves it on for too long. That happens more often in Goma. Because many women have their hair treated by people who do not understand their craft. It’s cheaper there and the Congolese household budgets are modest.

All right, all right?

Martine Jados ran a hairdressing salon in Goma for a long time. She knows the burning desire of customers to have white-style hair: "The women are in real competition. You can do without food, but you go to the hairdresser."

In order to secure the budget for this, women accept arguments with their husbands. They even risk speeding tickets or broken skulls to protect their hairstyle: For some time now, drivers and customers of motorcycle taxis, the most important means of transport in Goma, have had to wear a helmet. However, many women only drape the helmet on top of their hair when they drive past the police. Then he comes down straight away.

"disarray" on the head: Gisèle Bagheni after visiting the hairdresser

With a great hairstyle, the Congolese feel nice and strong. It gives them strength and courage in a society where poverty, arbitrariness and sexual violence are part of everyday life. The teacher Lune Amnazo, for example, goes to the hairdresser every Saturday. "If the hair is right, then I know that the week will be good", she says.

"The most beautiful women in the world"

Joseph Nzanbandora Ndi Mubanzi, professor of sociology at the University of Goma, takes a critical view of this: "This attitude disappointed me personally. Instead of thinking about the future, you run after clothes and hairstyles." In Congolese society, beautiful appearances often count more than deeds, the scientist says. "I hope that changes. Otherwise we are blocked in our development."

It may be that the professor’s wish is fulfilled. The primary school teacher Sarah Mutesi (article picture) also knows the attraction of the other: "The Africans very much envy the Europeans for their hair. If the Africans had hair like Europeans, the world would be theirs", believes the 24-year-old. But for them, African women are already the most beautiful women in the world. For some time now she has been tying her natural hair into a ponytail, without synthetic hair or chemicals. It is cheaper and saves time. How they show more and more women in Goma their frizzy hair – with pride.

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  • date 09/30/2016
  • Writer / Author Judith Raupp
  • TagsDRC, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eastern Congo, Goma, hairdresser, poverty, hair
  • Feedback: Send us your feedback!
  • To pressPrint Page
  • Permalink https://p.dw.com/p/2QmRU

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  • date 09/30/2016
  • Writer / Author Judith Raupp
  • TagsDRC, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eastern Congo, Goma, hairdresser, poverty, hair
  • Send us your feedback!
  • To pressPrint Page
  • Permalink https://p.dw.com/p/2QmRU

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