Not everyone feels the sense of home when they step into the so-called “Motherland” or in other words Africa. While visiting Nairobi, Kenya, I never considered it as home, and it wasn’t until a conversation with a friend that the thought crossed my mind. Atlanta, GA was my home, and I was in Kenya to finally be in a country where everyone looked like me. Sometimes news stations, commercials, and books made Africa look impoverished and disease-ridden, so I was curious to see if there was some truth to this. Kenya, however, is developed way beyond what is being told through the media. The people are like everyone else in the world, they work, go to school, and yes there are some that are poor, but the incredible thing was they seemed happy. They didn’t let their current circumstances bother them. While on the other hand, I would flip out over a flat tire. Throughout my conversation with my friend, I kept that in my mind and responded with I’m comfortable. I felt comfortable in the sense of not being profiled or stared at. I just felt comfortable. For hours I roamed the streets going from restaurant to restaurant and of course touristy places, but still, I felt comfortable. I wanted that home feeling, and I didn’t want to feel like just another black American in Africa.
During a sightseeing adventure, I asked my tour guide, who had locs, if she could recommend someone so that I can get my locs redone. Just my luck, she was going the next day to her loctician and ended up inviting me along. I was excited and nervous at the same time. In my mind, this was a once and a lifetime chance for me to get my locs done in Africa. Of course, I didn’t want to pass up that opportunity. However, I had so many questions. Would the loctician be black? Would he/she know what they’re doing? I was scared of the possibility of having my hair messed up to the point I’d have to start again. I come from a country where any and everyone claims to do locs, at least ever since the natural hair movement took off. But I reminded myself that locs have been around Africa much longer than in Atlanta – more specifically the priests of the Ethiopian Coptic Church wore locs as early as 500 CE according to The Encyclopedia of Hair, A Cultural History. My hair describes who I am and I wear my locs with pride knowing there’s a country full of people that look like me that feel the same way.
I was very shocked to enter the hair salon and seeing that majority of the locticians were men. I’ve never had a man do my hair, and I was a little skeptical, if I may add. Though I was nervous, it was too late to turn back. As he palm rolled every loc he could, I started to get that home feeling I was searching for. I looked around the shop and noticed no one stared at me, no one asked to touch my hair. To everyone in the salon, I was just another person getting my hair done. I no longer felt like a Black American in Africa, I felt like I belonged. As the loctician finished my locs, I was intrigued by the intricate design. I didn’t look like myself. I felt different. I was finally home. Kenya gave me more than what I bargained for. My visit taught me to embrace my culture despite what books and television depicted. That’s not the home I experienced. Now that I’ve returned to the states, when people compliment me on my hair and ask who did my hair, I respond, “Back home in Africa.”
This feature was submitted by Monica Thorpe
Monica Thorpe is a travel writer from Atlanta, GA. A graduate of Clark Atlanta University, she has always had a passion for writing and traveling, but it wasn’t until she took her first solo/international trip that she decided to combine both. Thus, The Wknd Nomad was born. You can learn more about her by following her on Instagram today.