Title: The Hairdresser of Harare
Author: Tendai Huchu
Publisher: Jacana (2010)
ISBN: 978 1 77009 907 4
Reviewer: Tumelo Motaung
I headed to the library two months ago to get a copies of the books on our reading list for the next year. Tendai Huchu’s The Hairdresser of Harare is scheduled for December edition of book club and had been sitting in my backpack for a month and I just could not get myself to start reading it because of the three last books I had read.
Koleka Putuma’s Collective Amnesia, Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me, and Farida Karodia’s A Shattering of Silence did a job on me. I got so emotional that I could not even write after reading these. You’d think that books that deal with silence would encourage you to open up.
I started reading the book on the morning on which we set to host the Koleka Putuma book club session, which I personally was nervous about. So that morning, I sat in bed and opened this book, which I had chosen off a pile mainly on the fact that it had such a stunning cover, but also because Lethlogonolo Mokgoroane of The Cheeky Natives suggested it when I needed a light read. The language was so easy to get into, that when I had to get out of bed to head to book club I had read through a quarter of the book.
The narrative is one of rivalry between two hairdressers in Mrs Khumalo’s hair salon. It deals, candidly so, with the class struggle, corruption, and the land debate while reminding us of the intensity of homophobia in contemporary Zimbabwe.
I had been hoping, since page 38, that the story would not have a predictable end. I read through furiously, hoping to be proved wrong. I enjoyed the read, it appealed to a moral conscious higher than that which religion provides and weaves an intimate tale of true love.
Thinking back to Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, where the hairsalon was for Yejide also a place of refuge and comfort and ultimately where she found council, Tendai’s book does a great job of portraying how these spaces are used to revive our, from the outside in.
I’m happy I’ve read it at a time when the people around me, people I follow (Koleka Putuma, Binyavanga Wainaina, Romeo Oriogun) are using their spaces as pedestals that that allow us to actively engage the idea of queerness without ever feeling awkward about it.
Would have loved an expansion on the mother-child relationship Vimbai had with her daughter, Chinswalo. This because I have been preoccupied with a debate on single parenting over the past few weeks and honestly felt like Vimbai let Phillip off the hook way too easily.
Trina, Michelle, and Fungai are my favourite characters. Trina for her headstrong rebellion against a system set to destroy her. Michelle and Fungai for being that ever-so-needed cushion in family disputes, especially now when the extended family structure has broken down. Fungai is important for the philosophy aspect he brings to the story, teaching us that understanding transcends preconception.
Read our favourite quotes on the book on our goodreads page.