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Durban hairstylists find ways to work while salons are closed

15 June 2020 - 19:47 By Nokulunga Majola and GroundUp
Salons may be closed for lockdown but hairstylists are finding ways to meet the needs of customers.
Salons may be closed for lockdown but hairstylists are finding ways to meet the needs of customers.
Image: GroundUp/Nokulunga Majola

One bad hair day is acceptable, but for some people two months of bad hair days are a disaster. Though salons are still closed, hairstylists have managed to find ways to meet the needs of customers fed up with their hair.

Juma* from Zimbabwe, who specialises in dreadlocks, has been working on the streets since the salon where he worked had to close.

He came to Durban in 2008 seeking asylum, and after struggling to find work, he decided to learn to do people’s hair. For the past four years, he has been working in a small salon in Durban, where he pays R1,500 a month for a mirror and a chair.

“Before lockdown, I was making enough money for all our expenses including food, groceries and rent. I sometimes had extra cash just for emergencies,” says Juma, who lives with his wife and daughter in the Durban city centre.

He says on a good day he used to make R500 up to R1,000. But working on the street he is lucky even to make R300 a day — and he has to be on the alert for police.

“I cannot fold my hands while my family struggle. I have to work.”

Nokwa* from Ntuzuma township also had to move her operations to the streets. Now that lockdown conditions have eased, she says, she is getting more clients.

“I have made R2,000 in just three days.”

Gucci* from Zimbabwe, who also specialises in dreadlocks, says times are hard as he still owes half of his rent.

“Working from the streets is a risk but there is nothing that we can do, we have to survive.”

He says he tries his best to adhere to the rules like wearing masks and sanitising hands, but it is difficult to use gloves when working.

Khanyi Mbambo from KwaMashu says her stylist came to her house. “She wore a mask and I used sanitiser before she started plaiting my hair. Other family members also had their hair done. When my neighbour heard that someone was doing our hair, she didn’t want to be left out.”

Nompumelelo Mhlongo from Phoenix, who has dreadlocks, says she was walking past her usual salon when her stylist called her in. The salon shares the space with a clothing store and clothes on racks form a barrier to hide the salon at the back.

“I had my mask on and he had his. We sanitised our hands and where I was going to be seated before we began. I know it is wrong but I couldn’t take it any more. I missed my styled dreadlocks.”

* These are nicknames.

This article was first published by GroundUp.