Tendai Huchu - The Hairdresser of Harare
Intriguing novel explores realities of contemporary Zimbabwe
Vimbai and Dumisani are two ambitious hairdressers hiding secrets and jealousy in this intriguing novel. Its language is simple, even utilitarian: the descriptions verge on cliché and major events in the characters’ lives are glossed over quickly and with little insight into their consciousness. What it does excellently, though, is juxtapose this with an equally matter-of-fact presentation of the basic realities of contemporary Zimbabwe. Unemployment, class, AIDS, bills, the economy, sexuality and corruption are dealt with in an unsentimental way, and Huchu never lets you forget the specific political context of the story you’re reading. When advertising her hair salon, Vimbai says: ‘I figured since the country’s average life expectancy was thirty-seven, I would concentrate on the young.’ Bribery, violence and exploitation are dealt with in a similarly blunt manner, and this extends to Vimbai, who is haughty and rude, but appears worthy of admiration for the stoic way she goes about navigating the complex realities of her country.