Well, I'm enjoying an exciting spring break here in Austin. In the mornings, I'm fixing the things the copy editor (aka, "Daddy") found wrong in my dissertation and in the afternoons, I'm seeing my usual run of films about Africa, repressive states, and the prison system. (You should absolutely see Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, family detention is an outrage, and Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love is a beautiful look at Senegal's greatest musician. It was so refreshing to see a movie about Africa without the pity party that I hardly knew what to do.) Oh, and my bracket is set, as is President Obama's. We'll just see who wins that matchup, now, won't we?
I am all about the vacation productivity.
Anyway, the pope is still in Africa, having a high time ticking off the French and whatnot. He met with Paul Biya, the president/dictator of Cameroon, and family; the Holy Father spoke to a country that's 2/3 French in English; the French are taunting his stance on condoms.
I'm sure there's no causal relationship between these events. But there's an important element to this whole storyline that I think is being ignored, namely: Chantal Biya's hair.
Chantal Biya is the First Lady of Cameroon. She's the president's second wife, daughter of a Frenchman and (I am not making this up) a Cameroonian beauty pageant winner (Miss Doume).
(Every Cameroonian I know believes that either Paul or Chantal arranged to have the first wife knocked off so she could marry him and they could still be good Catholics. But that's neither here nor there. I could see the back side of the Presidental Palace from the front gate of my house in Upper Bastos and I never saw any funny business. For what it's worth.)
Other than possibly being implicated in the scandalous death of a dictator's wife and some trendy charity activities, the main thing for which Madame Biya is known is her rather spectacular hair. Her styles are legendary; they're named for her. The most ridiculous, I mean, amazing is called la banane ("the banana"). It is, I think you'll agree, something else:
It's not exaggerating to say that Chantal Biya is a trendsetter. Her hairstyles serve as data in scholarly articles on the topic, for heaven's sake.
Our girl Chantal pulled out all the stops for the Holy Father. Check out her hair in this family photo with Benedict:
(Photo: Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon)
I'm also pretty sure Chantal's hair is taller than the pope's mitre. If, you know, the pope wandered around presidental palaces in central Africa wearing a mitre. I'm pretty sure she hasn't done it this high since having tea with Laura Bush a few years back. But you know what we say here in Texas: the higher the hair, the closer to God.