Nikiwe Dlova's hair styling is colourful, trendy and a lesson in history

Nikiwe Dlova.
Nikiwe Dlova.
Image: Via Instagram @nix_indamix

Colour. Full, bursting, vivacious colour, is the first thing that comes to mind when viewing Nikiwe Dlova's work.

Katleho Seutloali in a headpiece by Nikiwe Dlova.
Katleho Seutloali in a headpiece by Nikiwe Dlova.
Image: Londiwe Dlomo

The very first time I came across it live was during the Afropunk Festival in December of 2019.

A young woman in a sunflower bra, with a matching headpiece, was taking pictures. The artwork was a halo of bright red mesh ringed with fat yellow sunflowers. Dlova creates hair art in the form of headpieces and different creative braided hairstyles.

Recently her work was on display on the cover of fashion magazine Glamour, when she braided and styled TV personality and rapper Boity Thulo.

She braided her hair in neon blues and greens, added some hair accessories and finished it off with some colourful beads.

"Luckily I had a lot of hair extensions and accessories that are colourful because I'm always working with colour.

"So when I got that brief I made sure I took my colourful beaded accessories [as well] because Boity is a healer...

"I think the main thing I wanted to play on were the beads, the colourful beads go hand in hand with where she is in her life right now in particular," she says.

Dlova is no stranger to media personalities; she's also gifted her work to the Duchess of Sussex Megan Markle, during her royal tour of Southern Africa. On the occasion she had created a headpiece in collaboration with the brand Stylin Dredz, natural hair salon Ndalo Nubian Naturals and a beading collective.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who visited South Africa last year, is one of the most recognised faces to be gifted with a Nikiwe Dlova creation.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who visited South Africa last year, is one of the most recognised faces to be gifted with a Nikiwe Dlova creation.
Image: WireImage / Samir Hussein

The 32-year-old Diepkloof-born entrepreneur is the founder of Own UR Crown, which started off as a blog in 2016 and later extended into what her business is now.

The expansion came naturally after, according to Dlova, her audience would state that they wanted to do the colourful creative hairstyles featured on the blog but could never find creative stylists.

"I just saw a gap in the market for creative African hairstyles, that we were not seeing a lot of those. I just wanted to just offer that service to people.

"So that people can just own who they are and be bold and unapologetic about their hair, because I think hair is such an important issue."

Dlova says in the past black women didn't have many options to express themselves with their hair, often shifting between simple braids, relaxed hair or sporting an afro.

Dlova studied clothing management at the University of Johannesburg, which was mainly about understanding the manufacturing side of fashion, she explains.

"I knew how to braid from when was young, I mostly braided family members here and there. So it actually came by surprise now that I am styling people. It was really part of the plan but I guess my creativity and also for the love of fashion just infused the whole thing and I just started doing hair."

She says her tertiary qualification helps her navigate the business side of her venture.

Clothing management is not too far off from the hair business because it's all part of a retail service, she says.

Growing up, she was active and enjoyed going to the hair salon to interact with the stylists. She learnt about fabric from her dressmaker aunt.

"That just inspired me to always do more and be creative and be expressive... I guess for me, using my hands and being an expressive kid helped me be the person that I am now."

She laments the fact that a lot of black people do not have any knowledge of their hair culture. And also the fact that a lot of people do not have information or confidence when it comes to their hair.

"I find myself educating my clients when it comes to hair, or taking care of their hair and telling them about all the different creative hairstyles that came before. So know it becomes more of an education and exchange of information from each other."

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