Hairstyling the African way in Indian capital

Last Updated: Apr 06, 2011, 13:58 PM IST

New Delhi: Pictures of Bob Marley jostle for attention with African fragrances and framed photographs of braiding, Ghana weaving and traditional African attires. Beads, gems, tattoos, bags, shoes and Nigerian energy drinks crowd the shelves even as a flock of young boys and girls await their turn to get their Afro-cuts right. African Lifestyle Unisex Salon & Boutique, owned by Casmir Nwakaeze, a Nigerian, in south Delhi`s Krishna Nagar area, is a slice of Nigeria in the capital.

The six-month-old shop has been helping young African migrants remain faithful to their traditional fizz and Bob Marley cuts, a style popularised by the legendary Jamaican musician. What`s more, it`s making these styles popular among Indians.

A businessman by profession, Nwakaeze came here 11 months ago after spotting an opportunity when friends back in Nigeria rued the lack of African hairstyling salons in India.

"I trained in hairstyling, so I wanted to set up my own salon some day. I had friends in India who used to crib about the non-availability of an African hair salon here. So, I thought it`s a perfect business to start here," Nwakaeze told IANS.

His idea worked as the salon is becoming quite a hit among Africans as well as Indians. Around 15-20 customers visit the salon every day and 40 percent are Indians.

Nwakaeze says his liking for India to some extent brought him here, but it was the absence of a salon to cater to people from African nations that inspired him to open the salon.

African hairstyling, he says, is not that easy. "We have different textures of hair, slightly thicker and a lot puffy. So it`s not everyone`s cup of tea to style them. We try to give maximum services to customers - from hair cutting, colouring, nail treatment to even tattoos," he said.

The salon offers multiple choices in terms of styling - from braiding, perming, retouching, weaving to applying artificial hair, all popular hairstyles from Nigeria are here.

"Indian styles too are popular among young Africans," said Nwakaeze, adding, "I would like to carry more than one hairstyle from India back home." Some of his favourite ones are Sadhna cut, layer cut, step cut and knots.

Among the African styles, Nwakaeze says his customers mostly come for the Bob Marley hairstyle.

Silar, who is from Kenya, said: "I am fond of the Bob Marley style and I am glad that I found a place for getting it done."

Nilotuli Khangenbum, who is an Indian, had also come for the same style.

Costing a minimum of Rs.5,000, and going up depending on the length of the hair, the prices can seem steep, but fact is that these styles are painstakingly done and also last a long time.

Zeena, a young Sudanese customer, finds the haircuts at the salon quite pocket friendly.

"Our hairstyles are different, so are our hair. In the absence of any salon, it was very costly to get it done. After I got my style done here, I have always come for repairing, which is much cheaper," she said.

Repairing costs around Rs.200 to Rs.500 for women and Rs.100 for males.

Three men and one woman stylist work at the salon.

Nkechi Meke, the Nigerian staff member at the salon, said she started learning the art eight years ago when she got a Bob Marley style for herself. "I wanted to learn that myself. But my favourite style now is Ghana weaving."

In Ghana weaving, small knots of hair are tied together into a bun or are left as it is.

The salon also has a boutique.

"We keep African attires, accessories, shoes and ladies and gents fashion bids. I also keep Indian dresses as they are in demand from both Indian and African customers," said Nwakaeze.

His also keeps royal caps from Nigeria. Though the price is slightly high, its royal charm attracts customers.

"If I will get a chance I will definitely give a nice hair cut to the Indian

IANS