Nanka: Enugu’s Hair Market For Every Woman

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About 10-15 years ago, my family lived at Chime Avenue, New Haven, on the first floor in a two-storeyed building. It was a great compound with great people. I remember my cousin Chinelo who lived with us. She was and still is very creative in all areas of fashion. What we enjoyed most from her, albeit with tears and pain was her hair-making expertise. But as the saying goes, Ochomma adiro ebe akwa[1] We always walked with our heads held high because we knew our hairstyles were unique. Whenever Chinelo was not in Enugu for some reason, our recourse was Nanka.

We all know what Nanka symbolizes in Enugu and I would not go into definitions and descriptions. Growing up, it was always with a sense of wonder and excitement that my sister and I trooped to Nanka whenever the occasion called. It was lovely seeing women of different sizes making different lovely hairstyles. Stories went round then that people had ideas of what hair to make but changed their minds when they enter Nanka because someone must have invented another lovely style and it was the rave. The catcalls of the hair makers and their adverts were also funny and innovative. Unfortunately, we only visited Nanka on very rare occasions, if I remember correctly, I can count the number of times we went to Nanka off the fingers of one hand and probably have some left.

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Now, Nanka holds a different appeal for me. I am no longer in awe of its meaning and its people, (it may be because I’m older and more jaded hahaha, or because my family stays in a place where I pass through Nanka every other day) but I hold a deep appreciation for its services. I find it almost impossible to braid my hair anywhere else, Nanka always calls me home -like Mother Idoto to Okigbo- and I always answer.

The last time I was at Enugu Dad asked when I was going to make my hair because oma na adirom agbajo ya agbajo.[2] My friends who live in different parts of Nigeria but who have felt the pull of Nanka cannot keep away too. Even men have gotten into the spirit of Nanka. It seems there are more men hair stylists than females in recent times. The competition is stiff and at the same time healthy (to the best of my knowledge)

It is a great place with rich history and ambience, maybe one of these days I would look into making a documentary of this place, because apart from the fact that it has along the years become a movement, an attitude, an awareness, I always wonder who started the business of hair-making in Nanka and how it spread wide and strong.

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[1]No pain, no gain

[2] He knows I cannot do without it

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Twinkle, twinkle Chino star.

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