Hangwani left the salon with her brand new weave. She’d just heard that there was a waterless shampoo that she could simply spray onto the hair and this really excited Hangwani. It would be such a relief to spray on the new product and comb it through her long, straight weave in the evenings to keep it shiny and beautiful.

Her father, Saul Tongo, was the owner of a butchery and chicken farm. Chicken entrails went a long way to providing the extra cash for the fashion sense of his only daughter. Nobody would say she was a butcher’s daughter: she dressed so stylishly well, always wearing the latest True Religion jeans, Gucci heels and sporting a Louis Vuitton bag.

Hangwani was admired by many boys, although she went to a girls-only private school. She only made friends with the boys from the smart boys’ high school down the road – easy enough because they all had choir practice together.

Her girlfriends nicknamed her ‘Wani’. They all went to church together on Sundays and got together at Menlyn Mall on Saturdays – unless it was ‘hair Saturday’, as it was today.

Hair Saturday meant a trip with her father through to Johannesburg, where she’d go into Hillbrow’s top salon to get her hair done.

Why didn’t she just get her hair done in Pretoria? Her father insisted that the trip was their quality time alone together. He would do his deliveries and Wani would go to the salon, but they always got to chat on the way to the city and home again.

“How was school this week? How are your friends? And your teachers?” Mr Tongo would ask his daughter.

At sixteen Wani was a super-sussed and sassy young woman, and, having just upgraded to a Blackberry Bold she now planned on getting an original Gucci cover for her phone. Accessorising was very important, almost as important as hair, Wani’s friends told each other. And so Wani was prepared to make the trip through to Hillbrow at least once a month for the weave – though it was often twice a month, and could even be every single Saturday! Sometimes she felt the style just needed a complete overhaul.

When Wani sat down in that salon chair in Hillbrow she became a different person, and she enjoyed it. She entered a different world from the rich private school and her rich girl friends. She left behind her polished English. She could get straight into ghetto Zulu and gossip the morning away with her stylist, Sibusile.

What was happening in Sibu’s life these days? Was her boyfriend treating her properly? Jakes was the owner of the salon and Sibu’s boyfriend. They had a three-year-old boy together and Jakes worked as a builder and a painter. Jakes had invested in this salon because Sibu had a real talent for hair, so they started off small, with a simple shop. Sibu had rewarded his faith and had built the business into a little gold mine.

“After everything I’ve done for him, you’d swear he wouldn’t go and do something behind my back, but these days, I’m telling you, I’m suspicious!” Sibu had confided in her this Saturday, her voice rising in pitch and her eyebrows rising too, and her whole body dancing around as she put the final touches on Wani’s weave. And so they chatted on.

But today, Wani’s time at the salon ended on an uncomfortable note. Soon after she had left the salon, two girls she recognised walked past her and she clearly heard one of them giggle nastily: “That one…she thinks she’s white.”


Tell us what you think: Are accessories, hairstyles and brands very important? What’s your opinion of the girl’s comment that Wani thinks she’s ‘white’?