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Early this year INFRINGE visited a remarkable barber called Walied. Walied lives and works in one of the top gang killing zones in the whole of South Africa. An area so plagued with killings that currently the Army has, controversially, been called in to try and suppress the escalating violence. Over 2000 people from the Cape Flats population have been killed in the last 7 months. Despite the overwhelming odds against him, Walied has amazingly managed to navigate his way out of direct gang-related activity into a simple home run barbering business that functions as a positive force both for him, his family and close community! Walied believes that without his passion for hairdressing he would probably be dead today and that the unique positive qualities of barbering have allowed him a violence reduced life in a gang dominated world.


Cape Town’s lower income areas are still heavily segregated. Walied lives in Hanover Park which was built by the Apartheid regime to house a population that internationally would typically be referred to as mixed race or of mixed heritage, but often locally, and positively, self-identify as ‘Cape Coloured’. Many of the resident families were forcibly displaced from their homes in the suburbs that Apartheid had designated as whites-only. Everywhere we looked we saw lives deeply affected by the pernicious and painful legacy of Apartheid-era race politics. Despite Cape Town as a whole being one of the most multicultural places on the planet the population of Hanover Park is nearly completely ‘Cape Coloured’ and the majority are first language Afrikaans-speaking. The ramifications of a community thinking and speaking in a version of language that functioned as one of the instruments of Apartheid is a reminder of how incredibly complex racial politics in modern South Africa is.

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“The consequence of a salon on the edge of gang territory is the many bullet holes puncturing the side of his small setup.”

Walied’s ad-hoc barbering salon setup is at the back of Lomond Court. A court built in the generic Hanover Park architecture of two facing blocks of three-storey flats separated by a desolate courtyard. His self-built salon structure is to the rear and also functions as his and his wife’s bedroom. It is tacked directly onto the bigger communal building which houses the rest of his extended family. His courtyard is designated an American gang area but is only a strip of rubble and weeds away from Laughing Boys Gang territory. The clear consequence of a salon on the edge of gang territory is the many bullet holes puncturing the side of his small setup.


As kindly invited visitors we found the horrifying tales of so many recent killings, the escalating cross-the-field shootings, and the grim warnings of ever-present violence near-paralysing, but Walied and his family just don’t have the luxury of outsider shock and incredulity. Walied gets on with what he loves and what brought INFRINGE to him is that he loves the transformative power of barbering. Whether it is cutting patterns, working with his clippers or scissors, he enjoys all that hairdressing offers. His skills are clear and he is super happy cutting hair of every and any texture. The residents of Hanover Park have such an incredible array of hair types and he, unlike many hairdressers, is very skilled at cutting every hair type and enjoys making everyone look and feel great! But hairdressings transformative power doesn’t stop at the client’s image, it is also one of the few vocations that could have saved him from gang life. With minimal tools and zero stock and with the safety precaution of his bedroom in the same space, he is able to keep a family supporting business running in an area that has so very few job opportunities and soul-destroying levels of unemployment.


As much as the world often defines the Cape Flat areas like Hanover Park only in terms of its extreme violence and very high crime statistics we, albeit very anecdotally, had an incredibly positive experience making this film. We are not naive and don’t underestimate how terribly violent a place it is to live, but luckily got to witness individuals and a community with so much more to offer. Everyone we reached out to actively supported the project and we would like to note we were never hustled or intimidated despite being clearly foreign and brandishing expensive filming equipment. We did not enter the area with any heavy security but rather by the careful stewardship of Colin our community liaison operative and now friend. When asked about the future Walied was cautiously hopeful that if he kept barbering and pushing himself some new opportunity may arrive, but he was very resolute that he believed he would be cutting hair ‘until the day he died’. Only his passion for his family was greater than his passion for barbering and to that purpose he is desperate to push his career further and we feel that it is clearly within his skill set to do so and hope an opportunity comes soon. After witnessing his obvious talent, we can only imagine that any impediment to his career moving forward will only come from the painful lack of prospects afforded those that live in Hanover Park.


Film + Words Michael Lindsay
Special Thanks Walied Sholtz & Colin Barends

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