(In a few days the world will celebrate international women’s day. As part of my celebration, I will be doing a series of short stories focusing on the hardworking African woman)
Iyabo had been waiting for what seemed like forever but was in fact only forty-five minutes. She was totally fed up but what choice did she have? The festival was only a few days away and she had to have her hair done. Her husband had suggested that since she would be tying the traditional gele (headgear) anyway, there was really no need for her to have her hair done in a hurry. Iyabo did not dignify his suggestion with a response; he was only a man after all, what did he know? The dirty look she gave him was enough to shut him up till after the festival. Men were so ignorant in these matters! How could any sensible woman not have her hair done? Even their old neighbour who barely had any hair left was planning to have hers done! The other option would be for Iyabo to go to the neighbouring village to fix the hair but no one did hair quite like their Onidiri; she was simply the best for miles around which was why she was so busy that everyone was waiting in line.
Onidiri looked up from the head of hair in front of her and sighed silently. She had only a little left and she would be done with this customer but then she knew Iyabo was waiting and she could not tell her to come back tomorrow. It was getting to dusk and she ached all over. She had been plaiting and braiding and styling since dawn and she had not even been able to take a lunch break. As if to register a protest, her stomach growled very loudly. She was really hungry; she would have to appeal to Iyabo to give her a few minutes to eat something.
“Onidiri ejo o! emi tin duro lat’aro! Ese kia die o!” (Onidiri please hurry up, I have been waiting since morning!) Onidiri felt a stab of guilt at her thoughts of food.
“Ejo, ema binu, Aunty Iyabo. Okun die, eni suru” (Aunty Iyabo please be patient with me, I’m almost done)
All thoughts of food fled instantly. She would eat when she was done. “Another two hours without food will not kill me”, she thought to herself. Two hours that would round up her day very nicely. Two hours that would enable them pay part of the backlog of school fees for the four kids who were no longer in school; the head master had promised to let all four of the kids return to school if they could reduce the backlog by half. Onidiri was prepared to work all night without food if she had to. It was up to her to see that her kids had a decent education, better than she had, better than her husband had. At the thought of her husband, her insides clenched in near anger, but she would not allow it, not tonight. Tonight she would concentrate on her trademark shuku hairstyle, unrivalled by any other in the region. “Yes, she thought with pride, I am the best Onidiri in the land. I am lucky I can do something to provide for my children.”
She was almost done with Iyabo’s hair when Iya Titi came hurrying in from the growing darkness. “Onidiri, forgive me for coming so late, I will pay you extra if you can do my hair tonight. I have to go town tomorrow to buy more wares for my shop.”
Onidiri smiled. Food will have to wait tonight
In honour of the African woman ..