Les Coiffeurs De Goma: "If You Want Your Hair Done Properly, You Go To A Man."

In Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the city's hair salons are dominated by a group of men called les coiffeurs du Goma.

In Black America, salons have historically been a meeting place for women to catch up on news, gossip and advice. Not so on a corner in the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Salon Jordan, it's the male hairstylists that dominate as female hair braiders and their clients sit outside.

”I’ve had this dream since I was a kid,” Assumani Muhima, 22, tells me about hair styling as he washes a customer’s hair inside Salon Jordan. Other coiffeurs from Goma, such as Tonton Blaise, 24, used doing hair as a way of avoiding a troubled life. Says Blaise, “I saw hair as my escape from getting wrapped up in gang life.”

Pragmatic reasons have also led some of Goma's male hairstylists to salon work: there’s simply more money in doing women’s hair. And some of les hommes even teased about styling hair better than women. Sitting in a bright orange chair in Salon Jordan, a customer with an asymmetrical bob and red streaks agreed. “Around here, if you want your hair done properly, you go to a man.”

Check out les coiffeurs de Goma in action in the gallery above.

The IWMF supported Roxanne L. Scott’s reporting from DRC as part of its Africa Great Lakes Reporting Initiative.

Roxanne L. Scott is a freelance reporter based in Queens, NY. She’s done work for places like the BBC, NPR and Voices of NY. Follow her on Twitter @whosworld.


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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