Anaëlle Sacco waits ‘n plaits in true Zambian spirit

Anaëlle Sacco is transitioning from living in Zambia to living as a Zambian.

Plaiting begins
Plaiting begins

For the past two and a half months, Anaëlle has been volunteering at Amos Youth Centre in Shikoswe. A native of France and recent graduate of Neoma Business School, Anaëlle has made a giant impact, whether she’s working with the students or making meals in the kitchen. But she felt the connection wasn’t yet complete.

“I felt the need to become a bit more African than I already became,” Anaëlle said. “My best advice to discover and be part of another culture is to live like the people around you, from the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the occupation you work at.”

Anaëlle immersed herself in Zambian culture by wearing a chitenge, an African garment often worn by women that wraps around the chest or waist or head, or as a baby sling.

The next logical step was for Anaëlle to plait her hair. Plaiting, which is similar to braiding, can be a complicated and long process. She also wanted to add some purple to her hair, for a colorful touch.

“Plaiting hair is very common for women here in Africa as well as young girls and even very young children, who have their hair plaited in very different ways,” Anaëlle said.

It was a process that Anaëlle was eager to experience, even if it meant enduring other Zambian tradition known as waiting.

Getting there
Getting there

“In France almost everyone is usually on time with a five minutes delay maximum,” Anaëlle said. “Here it’s more like one hour. So in order to be in the Zambian spirit, I first had to wait, wondering if what I was so excited for would happen that day or not.”

After waiting for the appointment, Anaëlle waited another six hours during the actual plaiting routine.

“Six hours is a long time when you just sit watching Zambian TV shows," she said. “At the same time, I was very impressed by the girls who could plait hair for such a long time, since I believe it’s really not easy and you need some patience.”

Anaëlle said the process wasn’t painful, although her head felt heavier and less mobile. Overall, she’s enjoying the new style and the reception she’s getting.  On her way to AYC the next day, nobody called her muzunga, the term used to describe white people.

“Everyone loved my new look!” she said. “I have the feeling that I got closer to the locals in Shikoswe and that they appreciate seeing me have interest in their culture.”

Next month, Anaëlle and her plaits will be back in France in time for Christmas.

“I definitely want to come back home for Christmas with them and see my grandmother’s astonishment,” she said.

Finished look
Finished look
So many braids
So many braids