South African Barbershops & Salons – By Simon Weller.

Photography credits: Simon Weller

The second build-up article was supposed to be a Nappily Ever After film analysis, but instead I chose to do a book analysis of a book that fits in perfectly with the theme of the exhibition. Firstly published on the 28th of September 2010 and re-published a few months later on the 22nd of March 2011 by Mark Batty publisher, the book I am analyzing is titled South African Township Barbershops & Salons by Simon Weller, a British born photographer and retired graphic designer that is now based in California, Nevada City.

Weller visited multiple barbershops and salons in various townships, including Khayelitsha, Soweto, Umlazi, Alexander and Tembisa when he traveled to South Africa from Botswana and Namibia in 2009. When traveling across these three countries his initial objectives were not photographing the shops, but after stumbling upon dozens of these salons here in South Africa he got drawn into them because of how they looked and signages painted on them, this fascination was sparked by his graphic designing background.

Photography credits: Simon Weller

During a road trip across Botswana and Namibia in early 2009 I had seen a number of rural roadside barbershops and was fascinated by their artwork. When I visited a black township in Cape Town, I saw literally dozens of similar businesses.  It became a bit of an obsession yet I didn’t get much of a chance to document them. I made a plan to return to South Africa and explore the project properly. About a month after I returned home, I had told a few friends about my idea and one recommended me to an art publisher in NYC who specialised in exactly this kind of book. After a number of conversations with them I was offered a publishing deal and made plans to go back to South Africa and shoot. I started the project in Johannesburg in early November 2009.” – Simon Weller, taken from an interview with Another Africa.

He documented these shops and then compiled the photographs into this book together with the interviews he conducted with some salon owners, sign makers as well as customers. The description of the book has to be the purest and best description of our local barbershops and salons, “As the cultural and social hubs of South Africa’s townships, barbershops and salons serve not only as places to get your hair styled but as places to gather, gossip and come together as a community. They also happen to showcase sharp and snappy vernacular designs: renditions of the haircuts on offer as well as typographic demonstrations of each shop’s name.

Photography credits: Simon Weller

To conclude this article, I will add another quotation from the Another Africa publication about South African barbershops and salons, “The black townships of South Africa seem to be the fertile ground for at least one kind of entrepreneurialism, the Barbershop & Salon. Popping up over night in some cases, they offer their communities something of a social nerve center; a place where people catch up, share the latest gossip, soccer game recaps and such whilst getting a trim, the latest fade and hair grooming.” – Another Africa.

Photography credits: Simon Weller

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