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The Hairdresser of Harare

Tendai Huchu

Publication Year: 2010

Like very good dark chocolate this is a delicious novel, with a bitter-sweet flavour. Vimbai is a hairdresser, the best in Mrs Khumalo's salon, and she knows she is the queen on whom they all depend. Her situation is reversed when the good-looking, smooth-talking Dumisani joins them. However, his charm and desire to please slowly erode Vimbai's rancour and when he needs somewhere to live, Vimbai becomes his landlady. So, when Dumisani needs someone to accompany him to his brother's wedding to help smooth over a family upset, Vimbai obliges. Startled to find that this smart hairdresser is the scion of one of the wealthiest families in Harare, she is equally surprised by the warmth of their welcome; and it is their subsequent generosity which appears to foster the relationship between the two young people. The ambiguity of this deepening friendship - used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind - collapses in unexpected brutality when secrets and jealousies are exposed. Written with delightful humour and a penetrating eye, The Hairdresser of Harare is a novel that you will find hard to put down.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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About the Author

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pp. v-

TENDAI HUCHU was born in 1982 in Bindura, Zimbabwe. He attended Churchill High School in Harare and then went to the University of Zimbabwe to study Mining Engineering in 2001. ...

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Chapter One

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pp. 1-3

I knew there was something not quite right about Dumi the very first time I ever laid eyes on him. The problem was, I just couldn’t tell what it was. Thank God for that. ...

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Chapter Two

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pp. 4-8

The grapevine is an amazing thing. Patricia had only been sacked for two days but the phone was already ringing off the hook. Each caller had somehow heard that we had a vacancy and they were ready to start straight away. I must have answered a dozen calls before I refused to take another one. ...

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Chapter Three

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pp. 9-12

The house that I lived in was far bigger than anything I could have dreamt of. It stood in Eastlea, a low-density suburb, home to the middle classes where people like me passed through carrying large baskets on our heads. A neighbourhood with an English name is a good neighbourhood. There are exceptions to the rule of course like Highfields or Hatcliffe, high-density areas. So to make the distinction we ...

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Chapter Four

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pp. 13-17

... “This is a business, Vimbai! Customers are waiting and you’re modelling,” she called out, as I made my way up the driveway. Agnes sniggered as I quickened my pace. ...

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Chapter Five

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pp. 18-22

The next day Dumisani didn’t show up. Nor did he show up on Tuesday or Wednesday. I couldn’t understand how anyone could waste such an opportunity – a job was a job these days. ...

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Chapter Six

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pp. 23-27

... A huge smile lit up her face. She looked out into the rain and asked if there were any customers with appointments in the book. There were none. ...

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Chapter Seven

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pp. 28-32

The cemetery was much bigger than I remembered it. It was called Mbudzi, meaning goat. I never found out why. It was only twelve months since we’d buried Robert and the cemetery was twice as large. The rows of earth heaps stretched into the distance. Beyond them ...

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Chapter Eight

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pp. 33-37

I got to the salon early and on time on Monday morning. I have a sixth sense about things and felt that on the one weekend I’d been away something radical had happened. The smirk on Agnes’ face as she greeted me confirmed my fears. ...

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Chapter Nine

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pp. 38-42

A new spot on my face was bothering me. It was deep in my chin and nothing I could do seemed to get rid of it. It was there on display for the whole world to see. It was only a fortnight since Dumi had started and the salon was twice as busy. ...

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Chapter Ten

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pp. 43-47

The music in the salon changed to Urban Grooves, a local bastardized form of hip hop with no artistic merit. When Dumi first brought it in, I thought it was a one-off. Soon the imitation synthesised beats were playing every day. ...

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Chapter Eleven

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pp. 48-52

Work was becoming an ordeal, I felt physically ill each time I made my way into the salon. To endure the mind-numbing thumping beats of the music they all now seemed to prefer was torture in itself. The salon was busier; in fact we had more clients on the books than we ...

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Chapter Twelve

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pp. 53-57

To see Fungai standing at the gate and waiting for me to unlock it was a dream come true. For an instant I could almost believe that one day I would host my family here, in peace. It was his first time coming. He had ignored the Takesure/Knowledge saga. I let him in and ...

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Chapter Thirteen

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pp. 58-62

The white Mercedes pulling up on the driveway reinforced my ego. Despite everything that had happened I still had the number one client. There were few people who got close to a government minister, let alone touched one. As she emerged from the car, my lips moved involuntarily of their own accord. ...

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Chapter Fourteen

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pp. 63-67

It was not long before Dumisani moved in. I made him pay a modest deposit in the full knowledge that it would be eroded by inflation after the first month or two he was there. It all happened so quickly. I had never before expected a man to live in this house. The few days Fungai had stayed ...

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Chapter Fifteen

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pp. 68-72

There was a changed atmosphere in the salon. Even Mrs Khumalo felt younger and oozed optimism. She began to talk about expanding the building for a third time. I can’t tell you how worried we all were at that prospect. ...

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Chapter Sixteen

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pp. 73-76

Dumi was not himself. He seemed distracted, as if there was something on his mind. Radio music played on but Dumi didn’t snap his fingers to its rhythm as he normally did. There was a mechanical efficiency to the way he did his clients’ hair. ...

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Chapter Seventeen

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pp. 77-80

There are people that can get anything they want through the strength of their personality. It’s a combination of having the right type of education and an upbringing that taught you how to navigate society’s mores. It was on Monday morning that Mrs Khumalo gathered us together for a special announcement. ...

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Chapter Eighteen

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pp. 81-86

It was only when I had Chiwoniso in my arms that I felt life was worth living again. Her tiny head on my bosom filled me with a strength that was like a good drug coursing through my veins. There is no way she could understand why I was holding her so close, but I was slipping and she was the only thing ...

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Chapter Nineteen

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pp. 87-91

The Ncubes had four children, three boys and a girl, the youngest. Dumisani was the third child; Patrick was the first-born. The weather was clear with wispy cirrus clouds floating in the sky. The wedding was taking place at the Catholic cathedral and I was worried that my dress would be crumpled ...

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Chapter Twenty

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pp. 92-97

The electric gates swung open slowly and we drove up a long winding driveway until we reached the house atop a little hill. Cousin Mike struggled to find parking in the carport because there was an assortment of smart cars tightly packed together: Mercedes, BMWs, Escalades, Audis, all manner of 4x4’s and even a solitary Hummer. ...

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Chapter Twenty-one

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pp. 98-101

It should have rained for me on Monday, but it didn’t. As if to mock me the sun shone in all its glory and there was not a single cloud in the sky. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was the sort of feeling you have when you’ve thrown up so much and there isn’t ...

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Chapter Twenty-two

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pp. 102-107

Tuesday was the first day of September and I went to work with my spirits high. The cramped commuter and the abusive conductor did nothing to dampen my spirits. There was a light drizzle as if the rain was teasing the earth. I passed several banks with long winding queues, feeling ...

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Chapter Twenty-three

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pp. 108-112

The armed ‘war vets’ approached whistling and chanting. I dropped the comb I was using to unbraid the minister and covered my mouth. The mental image of Dumi beaten to a pulp, sprawled on the ground, flashed though my mind. The mob circled him. It was like watching a hunting party waiting to make a move. Dumi turned and looked at ...

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Chapter Twenty-four

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pp. 113-117

The weekend came and went and it was a relief to know that we were going to be away from the salon for a while. Nonetheless, I woke up early on Monday morning as usual. Habits born through years of work cannot be easily set aside. I drank my tea and took a walk through the garden. ...

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Chapter Twenty-five

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pp. 118-121

The bed my daughter and I slept in had satin sheets that caressed the skin. Chiwoniso kept sliding down them, excited by the smooth luxuriant comfort. There was a large window from which we could see the stars as they shone brightly in the sky. This must be what heaven was like. I rubbed my full tummy and thought about where my life ...

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Chapter Twenty-six

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pp. 122-128

The queue at the passport office was the longest I’d ever encountered, which was saying something. It stretched right round the Registrar’s office and onto the street. All the people waiting in line seemed to be young. Their desperation to leave the country showed on their faces. A thin security guard whose blue overalls hung on his matchstick ...

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Chapter Twenty-seven

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pp. 129-133

Mrs Khumalo had outdone herself. The new salon building was completed on schedule. The front wall had been knocked down and replaced by a glass front with large sliding doors. Charlie Boy’s barbershop now had its own separate glass partition. He began to say ‘step into my office’ to each client who came in to see him. The walls ...

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Chapter Twenty-eight

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pp. 134-138

The day before my birthday, six months after Dumi had first walked into my life, I worked a half-day and he had arranged a day off for both of us the following day so we could celebrate as a family. Yolanda gave me a card she had made herself. For a moment, I wished I was her age ...

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Chapter Twenty-nine

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pp. 139-142

Sam Levy’s Village in Borrowdale is Harare’s premier shopping centre. It was built with a certain sense of nostalgia for a small English town. Its two main rivals, Eastgate and Westgate, were newer but they lacked its character. Eastgate was located in the city centre, a place avoided by the new elite; Westgate with its Mediterranean aura failed ...

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Chapter Thirty

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pp. 143-147

The day my salon opened was the best day of my life. There was a purple sign at the front which read – Exclusive, in bold cursive lettering. It wasn’t Exclusive Hairdressers or Exclusive Hairdressing and Beauty, no, my salon was just Exclusive. Michelle and another girl wore shorts and t-shirts advertising the salon and handed out small ...

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Chapter Thirty-one

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pp. 148-152

The salon really took off in the new year. I figured since the country’s average life expectancy was thirty-seven, I would concentrate on the young and the beautiful. There was no point in indulging a clientele that was statistically supposed to be dead. For people over forty we were very selective; they had to be the cream of the elite to use our ...

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Chapter Thirty-two

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pp. 153-157

Jealousy is the worst feeling in the world. It creeps up on you, hugs you so that you can’t breathe. Your chest feels compressed and food loses its taste. In my case my condition was worsened by uncertainty. In the morning Dumi greeted me and told me he’d made breakfast himself since I’d cooked him dinner. He adjusted the bun in ...

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Chapter Thirty-three

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pp. 158-162

On Friday morning Dumi packed his bags and left for the Eastern Highlands. He kissed my cheek as though it was obligatory and off he went without once looking back. I’d taken the weekend off and left Sarah to run the salon. Though I knew what I had to do, I dreaded finding something that would confirm my suspicions. Feeling this ...

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Chapter Thirty-four

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pp. 163-165

... More entries of a similar nature followed. Dumi never seemed to be short of money and the two of them gallivanted all over the place, but another entry caught my eye. ...

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Chapter Thirty-five

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pp. 166-170

... I looked at the diary on my floor. The tiny figure of my daughter lingered for a moment and then shut the door. DUMI IS A HOMOSEXUAL – Ngochani. If it wasn’t written in his hand and before my eyes, I would have denied it. I could not have foreseen this. He spoke like a normal man, wore clothes like a normal man and even walked ...

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Chapter Thirty-six

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pp. 171-173

The minister was sat at her desk wearing reading glasses and signing document after document when I went in. She glanced at me dismissively and returned to her work. It had taken me perseverance and over two hours to get past security so I could see her. She occupied a corner office in Construction House on Leopold Takawira ...

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Chapter Thirty-seven

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pp. 174-178

I walked through the packed streets of the city feeling like I was being weighed down by thirty pieces of silver. People marched in different directions, here a woman carried a basket laden with fruit on her head and there a man with a bicycle pump walked along whistling a tune by Oliver Mtukudzi. In this mass of bodies I wondered if there ...

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Chapter Thirty-eight

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pp. 179-182

The phone rang at three in the morning. Its luminescent light brightened my dark room where I had only just managed to snatch my first sleep in many days. I reached for it but my drowsy hand only succeeded in dropping to the floor. It stopped ringing for a few seconds ...

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Chapter Thirty-nine

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pp. 183-187

The operation went well and he was transferred to the ICU to recover for a time before being brought back to the ward. The days and weeks that followed were some of the worst in my life. The only person I could tell from his family was Michelle. She had to make up some excuse with the family about how Dumi and I were too busy ...

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Chapter Forty

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pp. 188-189

On Saturday evening Michelle, Dumi, Chiwoniso and I stood inside the lobby at Harare Airport. The stars in the night sky did not burn so brightly that night. There was a queue of people checking in. Some black families with kids who only spoke English in a funny accent – children of the Diaspora. ...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781779221537
Print-ISBN-13: 9781779221094

Page Count: 196
Publication Year: 2010

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