Photography by Trevor Stuurman

Ncumisa ‘Mimi’ Duma – creative expression through hair

At the top of a list of powerful black anthems is probably Solange’s ‘Don’t touch my hair’, a song that captures the sacredness of a black girl’s hair. In the opening verse Solange expresses that our hair is a manifestation of our feelings, our soul, our rhythm, a crown, which cannot be touched. These are sentiments that Ncumisa ‘Mimi’ Duma, a freelance natural hair artist based in Johannesburg, deeply understands.

“I touch more than hair,” explained Mimi. Years of styling hair have revealed to Mimi the power she has over a person’s image, mood, perception and reception. However, Mimi considers it more than just a skill that she developed and vigorously studied, it is her “calling”.

It was during a theatrical production in Germany that Mimi finally found a path, Carlton Hair International, that would continue allowing her to express her creativity through hair. After three years at the Caucasian hair based institution, Mimi took to the salons of inner city Johannesburg even though she had been told that “there is more money in Caucasian hair than there is in Ethnic hair”. But Mimi was set in changing that and transforming the Ethnic hair industry.

During her years of study, Mimi was taught about customer relations, hair to product knowledge, how to effectively find out about the history of someone’s hair and how to handle the hair accordingly. Her mission was to master the intimate relationship that a hair stylist and their client have, and transfer this knowledge into Ethnic hair salon spaces, where the customer’s natural hair is actually being cared for and not simply be chemically processed.

Mimi is always in search for spaces that she can celebrate natural Ethnic hair through her creative hair styling. She has been presented with opportunities to manage natural Ethnic hair salons, style for productions, photoshoots (like Tarryn Alberts’ Bubblegum Club cover shoot), fashion shows and performances. Currently based in a salon in Maboneng, Mimi has the freedom to freelance and make house calls.

There is a masterful intricacy in each one of Mimi’s works of art. She is currently experimenting with wool, protective styles with a modern African twist and plotting how she can build an army of natural hairstylists that will guarantee that when a black girl’s hair is touched, it will be touched with the reverence it deserves.

For more on Mimi’s masterpieces follow her on Instagram.

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