In Durban’s bustling city centre across the road from The Workshop and under the shade of a spreading Indian Almond tree Mlondi runs a thriving dread salon. A small photo-board attached to the trunk of the tree advertises the styles Mlondi offers. Two camper chairs one for work and one for waiting to provide the salon’s clients with a place to sit. At the base of the tree is a small mirror letting clients keep an eye on the progress of their dreads while a raised brick ledge provides the counter for his hair products.
The first dreads Mlondi did were his own. He keeps them in as a permanent advert of his skills. “Six months ago I made myself dreadlocks. It took me about forty-five minutes. Now I’ll never change my hairstyle. People look at my hair and they see what I can do and they ask for the same thing.The area is buzzing with people – moving from the market to The Workshop to the bus depot. Potential clients stop by to chat with Mlondi as he twists another dread into place.
Happy client reading the YOU magazine, seems content to abide the constant interruptions.”I just came and set up my salon,” says Mlondi. “I don’t pay rent and I have about five people a day.” It can take about an hour and a half hour to make dreads and I charge R150 for them. I am not a hairdresser by profession – no one taught me to do what I do I just saw somebody doing it and I did the same.”People used to go for a lot of different hairstyles like the kinky but now the fashion is for dreadlocks. They like them because they make your hair long. It is also easy to keep it. You don’t need to comb your hair; you don’t even need to look in the mirror. You wake up in the morning and off you go.”
Mlondi’s business is built on connections, visibility and dedication. “I am here everyday seven days a week.” Mlondi tells us. “I come in from seven in the morning, and work all day.”Not content to simply twist away under a tree Mlondi has plans to open his own all-dread, all the time salon, employing a staff of permanent dreaders.”My aim is to gain clients for dreadlocks so I can open this salon. With a normal hairdresser people are not sure they can get dreadlocks but with me they’ll know this is all I do.