The Hairdresser of Harare

I have just finished reading The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu.

Synopsis (SPOILERS!!)

So the story is told by Vimbai, a hairdresser in Harare. She’s queen bee with attitude at Mrs. Khumalo’s saloon. Then this young man, Dumisani, shows up looking to fill a recent vacancy as a hairdresser. He shows off his skills, and Mrs. Khumalo is impressed and hires him. Soon Vimbai is losing clients and the saloon is busier than ever as news spreads of this amazing stylist. Despite her hostility towards Dumi, she allows him to become her tenant when she finds out he’s struggling financially. Through this, a friendship is formed. Vimbai, her daughter, Chiwoniso, and Dumi create a new family for themselves after both being estranged from their families.  Love blossoms between them which helps Dumi reconcile with his family. A strong bond is created between his family and Vimbai, as the woman who cured him. They help her career and spoil them [Vimbai, Dumi, and Chiwoniso] to her heart’s content. However, she doesn’t know that Dumi is harbouring a secret that could tear them apart. He’s in love with someone’s husband. In a country as conservative as Zimbabwe, his sexuality could cost him his life. So it’s reasonable for him to be apprehensive about telling Vimbai. However, keeping it from her, lets her imagination run wild. Suspicions of an affair are rampant in her mind, so she searches through his stuff until she stumbles upon his diary and the truth comes out. Disgusted, angered and feeling betrayed, she tells the man’s wife who is a top government official. Dumi is left for dead by some thugs. Fortunately, he is taken to the hospital and slowly recovering. Vimbai immediately regrets her actions and pleads with the minister to allow him to flee the country upon his recovery. Minister agrees conditional that he does not breathe a word of it all, else Vimbai might suffer a crueller fate.

My thoughts (spoiler free)

It’s a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. would recommend it especially to people who love contemporary African literature.  A story probably set in the early 2000s.  So it doesn’t have that war-torn Africa you tend to see on the news.  It’s a story of Africa as seen by an African. Set on a difficult time in Zimbabwe’s recent history, with the failing Zim dollar, the scarcity of food and resources, but it is a vibrant story of love.  Different kinds of love, obviously.  The novel is filled with social commentary on the everyday struggles of people, the little corruptions that we have become accustomed to.  When English fails to capture the essence of what is being said. Tendai doesn’t hesitate to say it in Shona. It is done so neatly, that it doesn’t take anything away from the story.

It is unapologetically African, not trying to explain itself, just being itself, blackouts and all.

My thoughts – critical analysis (Full of spoilers!)

Personally, the theme that stood out for me is that of the difficulty in confiding in or trusting people.

Dumi didn’t tell Vimbai that he was gay, and carried on as though he were in love with her.  So I can imagine her upset.  He was using her. It seems that for him, she was a way to safeguard his inheritance, his month allowance was restored, he was allowed to visit his family. However, you must understand that despite caring for her, it is still difficult to confide in people when you know they will most likely judge you. His own family had disowned him, so what more a stranger not bound by blood. After the church service, Dumisani was horribly shaken but to Vimbai that was a pretty typical service, the pastor had not said anything that made her feel uncomfortable and that might have been scary for him.

Many times in life, we carry unnecessary burdens because of the fear of rejection. We imagine the different scenarios of responses. Sometimes, a friend’s careless words haunt us, chaining us to our secrets. Causing some unnecessary wear and tear at the core of the friendship, as the weight of your woes keeps you guarded. But in all honestly, if your friendship is to survive, you have to believe in them. Believe that they can handle the truth and that they can rise to the challenge. If they can’t, it probably says more about them than you. Because you were BRAVE (<< click it, you know you wanna listen to it) and put yourself out there.


Love, peace and understanding that’s what we need more of.


One thought on “The Hairdresser of Harare

  1. Helder Budstuber

    Being Zimbabwe, homosexual people must maintain absolute secrecy with respect to their sexuality. This has serious legal consequences, as well as public disapproval. Whether this should be the case is a debate for another day. Secondly, exposing such an affair about a top government official in Zimbabwe comes with legal repercussions, and may also cost life or limp. [Opposition] politics in Zimbabwe is a hard-hat area, so judging from your synopsis, the man did the most logical thing by being discreet. However, you don’t wanna leave a paper trail if you know have anything that’s meant to be a secret. That’s a rookie move, something only expected of John Milton in Spud.

    Liked by 1 person

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