Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Of Masks and Hair

I received the most interesting gift a month or so ago.

It is a mask made and cast in Uganda. The mask is made then burnt with fire. I don't know what that exactly means, but is smells strongly of fire and wood and barbecue (if that makes any sense).  I like it. Besides, I have no African art. This is a nice piece. I may look in to collecting a few more pieces.

My coworker Lady M's husband goes back and forth to Africa on public health business several times a year and sent it to work via Lady M.

The cats hate it. If they are running around being more raucous than usual, I bring out that mask. They sit down immediately. Not sure why they are so afraid of it, but it is hilarious.  Look at Sister Callie Jo below...

"Bet you sit your butt down and stop all that ripping and running," I told her.

I had no idea where Mitch ran off to. He wanted no part of that mask.

But my coworker's husband did something else nice for me earlier this year.

We'd always joked about taking some personal item of mine back to Africa. He could take it and leave it there. That way there's a part of me in Africa. It would be like my ancestors, who'd survived the Middle Passage, had made it back to their homeland. Of course I don't know what part of Africa from whence my people originated, but just to have something of mine taken back to the Motherland would be a great thing.

I thought about writing a poem. Or sending a scarf or a piece of clothing.

I pondered this for months.

"Don's going to Africa again, and he may not be going back for awhile," my coworker said. "Decide what you want him to take."

I couldn't decide what to give him. Then I had an idea:

It was about time for me to get a hair cut. So I washed my hair and I grabbed my clippers and shaved the hair from the nape of my neck. There was a half a handful of hair, but I collected a thimble full, enough for a teaspoon-sized plastic bag (a bag that previously contained small electronic parts for my new cell phone. For some reason I saved the tiny bag).  I placed the little plastic bag in a envelope and gave it to my coworker to give to her husband to take on his next trip to Africa.

"Tell Don to blow it into the wind," I said.

And that's what Don did.

"Don stepped out on the balcony of his hotel room and released your hair and let it blow in the wind," Lady M said.

I imagined this charming Caucasian man saying a few words and releasing my hair into the wind. I wondered what he said, but I didn't ask. I am sure it wasn't all dramatic. He was just doing me a favor, this returning my DNA to the motherland. 

"GLORY!" I yelled, my hands raised high in the air. "My ancestors made it back home!"

And we talked and joked about that even up until now.

I could not think of anything to give him to take back to Africa. But my hair was a great idea. It was personal. It was a part of me. The genetic material of many generations is found in hair.

And my past generations made it back from whence they came.

Even if it was in a small bit of my hair.  


  1. That's an interesting mask. I cracked up at Callie Jo. Ha!

    What an awesome thing your co-worker's husband did for you. That's a deep and symbolic thing.

  2. Anonymous8:46:00 PM

    How awesome! Your hair literally blowing in the wind.

  3. I haven't been to see you in a while but when I do....I always leave with some pondering to do.

    Right now, I'm listening to Erykah and thinking about your hair blowing through the Motherland and if the butterfly effect is real. And what could happen in this case.

    I meant to comment, not write a book:)


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