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Born and based in Lagos, Andrew Esiebo travelled to the urban centres of seven neighbouring West African countries to document barbershops and their patrons. Struck by the overwhelming presence of the shops in every part of the cities, he explains “they were such an intrinsic element of the urban aesthetics”. 

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Comprising of almost a hundred images, ‘Pride’ is split into four sections – ‘Nuance’, ‘Styles’, ‘Barbers’, and ‘Urban Aesthetics’ – each detailing a different element of barbering culture. Together they provide a rich and layered insight into the social role of barbershops within modern African society. Casting his eye on the spaces as much as the people, many of Esiebo’s images focus on decor, such as posters and paintings adorning the walls. Here, religious imagery, hip-hop artists, soccer teams and icons of black culture share the same visual space. The iconography in the shops can be seen as reflective of the people who visit them, denoting trends, conventions and idols. Esiebo explains, “they reveal aspirations, in terms of fashion and music, but also to some extent their religious and political identities”.

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“the shops reveal aspirations, in terms of fashion and music, but also to some extent their religious and political identities”
Andrew Esiebo
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On naming the series ‘Pride’, Esiebo recounts meeting a barber in Lagos who explained that, while some may consider barbering a mundane profession, it has enabled him to interact with people from all walks of life. Even counting an ex-President amongst his clientele, it was the palpable sense of pride he had in his work which stuck with Esiebo. “It is this sense of pride and the various ways it is achieved that informs the basis of this project” he explains.

Having explored the subject of barbering in such depth, has this reframed his view of his own hair?
“Absolutely, 100%” Esiebo says. “Before, I never used to give my hair much thought. But since I began the project I haven’t even cut my hair, beyond the slightest trim. Investigating the subject in such detail, seeing its significance in so many people’s lives - it has acquired a new meaning, and become something precious”. 
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Credits

Text Emma de Clercq + Andrew Esiebo
Images Andrew Esiebo Website andrewesiebo.com

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