There was a missionary man in Tanzania who was not endowed with much on top of his head. In other words, he was bald with only a narrow fringe around the edges. But, he was well respected and had been on the field for many years – evangelism, church planting and was now teaching in the church Bible school – and had been very effective.
I was at a church meeting when the African pastor was announcing the upcoming general conference. This missionary was to be the main speaker. The pastor tried to let folks know who the speaker was to be. “You know, the man who opened the mission station “ ‘way out near the Masai’ ”. Blank stares.
“The man who now teaches in the Bible school”. Blank stares.
“You know, the man who has a face from here to here”, indicating from the front of the head to the back. Ah, now they knew! Many voiced approval and anticipation.
Now, we knew that the Africans knew us from our distinctive appearance, actions and reactions. And, the Sukuma word for what we term as the face included any part that extended up from the lower part of one’s actual face up through all of that which had no hair. Though the word “wanga” is the word for baldness, the description given as “face” brought understanding to everyone.
Nuances of language and descriptions!