By CHRISTINE MWAABA
“I LOVE to style my long hair as a long braid or as a bun on top of my head so that one day I could feature in the Guinness Book of Records.”
This is Lister Phiri’s dream, to break the world record with her hair.
Lister lives in Chilanga District in Lusaka.
She continues to be one of the few Zambian women blessed with incredibly long hair that is almost twice her height and she hopes that one day, her extraordinary gift will be recognized.
While others have gone to the extent of wearing artificial hair extensions to lengthen their hair, the 49-year old Lister has had incredibly long hair from as long as she recalls.
This author found it interesting that a local woman could have such long hair which is more than two metres.
She is a real-life Rapunzel – a character in a traditional fairytale who escaped from a tower by letting down her long hair so that a prince could climb up to save her.
Rapunzel’s hair then served as a long rope which dangled way down the castle and the prince climbed up by clutching onto the hair.
The decision not to cut her hair may have spared Lister the hurdle of going to hairdressers often.
But having such long hair is a lot of work.
According to Lister, the cost involved in maintaining the hair using shampoo is too expensive for her and she has now resorted to using detergent paste for to her hair, which is more affordable for her.
Lister, whose hair measured about one and half meters in 2007, said the hair is now more than two meters long.
She has to constantly trim the edges to enable her comb it without much discomfort.
Lister has never used any artificial means to make her hair grow.
“I have never used any chemicals to make my hair grow, not even relaxing creams in my life.
“I have maintained natural hair from the time I was young and only use Vaseline and detergent paste to wash my hair and style it with cotton thread,” she explained.
She said although she has to trim her hair frequently, it does not bother her because the hair grows at a fast rate.
Lister is able to style her hair with assistance from neighbours and her children using cotton thread, without necessarily having to spend a lot of money and time in hair salons.
She said despite being blessed with very long hair, she has to endure carrying its weight when left unbraided, which she finds laborious to bear.
Lister further has to endure carrying her hair when, for example, she gets soaks in the rain, which makes the hair heavy to bear.
She said she spends about three hours making ponytails, which she then folds around her head in order to allow her move freely without much difficulty.
When left unfolded, the length of her hair reaches the ground, much to the amazement of many women who are left speechless.
Lister said though her hair is time-consuming to care for, she has no plans to cut it.
“I have a normal life like any other woman, except I have to ford my hair most of the times to avoid getting a lot of attention from the public.
“Some people think that I face so many problems with my long hair, but I don’t face any. I am able to do all my chores with my hair.
“I call it a lucky gift from God,” she said.
Born in 1969, Lister, who is now a mother of two, has had exceedingly long hair from the time she was young.
Because her hair has always been longer than that of her peers, often times she wondered why she was different.
During her days at Kaoma High School then, she was forced to cut her hair about four times in a year in order to be in line with school regulations when it came to acceptable length of hair.
Asked about how her long hair came about, Lister believes she could have inherited it from her grandmother whom she said also had very long hair.
She explained that not until she was tired of having to constantly cut her hair in order to keep it within what may be viewed as acceptable length that she decided to let it grow.
“After I saw that my hair was growing longer, I began to embrace it because I realised that it might be God-given and probably give me the power of ‘Samson’ (in the Bible),” she said.
Contrary to misconceptions owing to the length of her hair, Lister said she is a Zambian by birth and descent.
“A lot of people think I come from Jamaica or some other foreign country, but the truth is that I am Zambian, from the Eastern Province,” she said.
Working on the principle that God is the only one who is able to give to people according to what they can sustain within their means, Lister believes that God has granted her wisdom on how to maintain what others may see as an ‘abnormality’.
“This is my gift from God and I need to cherish it considering that very few women are blessed with such long hair,” she said.
She believes if she had not been cutting her hair over the years, she would have had hair stretching beyond its current length.
She is hopeful that she could be considered for a world record so that she could be featured in the Genius Book of Records one day.