Amid the hustle and bustle of Cape Town’s central business district sits Awesome Hair Salon on Adderley Street. The salon is connected to a clothing store with the same name.
The quiet, relaxed atmosphere of the salon on a rainy Tuesday morning is in stark contrast to that of the restaurant and laundromat that it cradles between, where locals are rushing in and out to quickly pick up their meals or laundry and get their day started.
“I’m a hairstylist,” says John Eze as he sits at the window of Awesome with awaiting customers, with a cup of coffee in hand. “We don’t have everybody in here yet. It’s really quiet on Tuesday.”
Mr Eze specialises in African hairstyles on women. In 2009 he was trained to be a stylist at a different salon in Cape Town where he learned several skills from braiding and straightening to blowing and colouring.
“That is when, he said, he discovered a passion for hair.
“I get a lot of questions about this,” Mr Eze says with a chuckle. “I got my skills, then my love for it just kept growing and growing.”
Mr Eze has only worked at Awesome Hair Salon for about a year and three months. Today, he works in Awesome every day from the salon’s opening, at 9am, to closing time at 6 in the evening.
Sometimes Mr Eze stays in the salon hours after closing time to continue working on a client’s head to perfection.
He does not mind the extra hours, though. The good company of his co-workers makes the workplace a fun environment for him, he says. “I’m always at work. I just go home to sleep.
“I think almost all of us enjoy being at work more than being at home.”
Mr Eze is not a Cape Town native – although, his extensive knowledge about the city could fool someone. He is a Nigerian immigrant, currently living alone in Kensington, having migrated to South Africa 10 years ago to fulfil his childhood dream.
Mr Eze loves a new adventure and aspires to travel to every African country. “I want to know Africa. So, my first destination is Cape Town,” he says.
Mr Eze says his goal is to spend his life empowering youth all over the continent by encouraging them to think positively of themselves and their lives.
“It doesn’t matter the background or whatever challenges we face in Africa, we can still become who we want to be,” Mr Eze says.
And his eagerness to uplift African youth trumps his passion for cutting, colouring, or braiding. Once he moves on to his next adventure in another country, he plans to leave his hairstyling tools behind and focus on his main objective: to motivate African youth.
“Somehow the leadership always discourages us or depresses us by not doing something to help us become great,” Mr Eze says. “But I know in the midst of all of this, whoever gets in their mind, ‘I’m not going to be a failure,’ they will still rise to the whole situation.”
Mr Eze’s inspiration stems from his own experiences, wishing he had had someone to advise him, the way he hopes to do for others. One of the things he wants to stress to the youth includes prioritising their dreams.
“You have the pressure to earn a living and support the family and siblings. Sometimes in doing this, you also fail because you take responsibility early when you’re not yet strong enough to do that,” he says.
So far Mr Eze has only been to Nigeria, Cameroon, and South Africa. He does not know how much longer he will stay in South Africa but he feels ready to move on to experience another country after having spent a decade here, he says.
“I could say because I’ve been in South Africa, I have known South Africa that dream is fulfilled.
“Life in Cape Town is an experience, life in Nigeria is an experience, I want to experience Africa on the other side.”
Regardless of where Mr Eze chooses to go next, he knows Cape Town will not be forgotten. “I don’t think I will ever forget about Cape Town,” he says. “Cape Town is memorable”.
blob Thais Ackerman is a visiting journalism student from Mercer University in the USA.