Peter Matika, Senior Life Reporter
FINGERS Hair Salon and Modelling Agency in Bulawayo is not just a beauty palour, as many people would have it . . . it is in fact an agency that yokes and nurtures talent among the youth, while also equipping and empowering them life skills.
Established about 30 years ago, Fingers has been home to many hairdressers and models, providing them with vast opportunities to develop themselves into self-motivated entrepreneurs.
Sunday Life senior reporter Peter Matika (PM) sat down with Fingers director, veteran modelling instructor and beautician Sarah Mpofu-Sibanda (SMS) and a few hairdressers who spoke of how they have turned their lives around.
PM: Fingers Hair Salon and Modelling Agency has always been a premium establishment that has produced some of the finest society’s ambassadors. The story behind its creation has never been told before?
SMS: Indeed, Fingers is almost 30 years old now. It was established by my late husband Peter Mpofu and I, he was a hairdresser and model. We were both beauticians, the concept behind Fingers came after the realisation that there were very few black hairdressers and models in the late 80s and early 90s. The idea was to take the industry to the African community and show people that it was a make ends meet and also create employment.
PM: How was the reception from people particularly from black people?
SMS: It was quite difficult. Black people viewed the industry as lewd and as an industry for people with loose morals. On our part, my late husband and I, it was a turning point. It was viewed as a cultural taboo for men to do hair. Peter was a very good hairdresser and could do both African and Caucasian hair.
PM: I understand you had a number of branches in the city and in other cities.
SMS: Yes, we had a few branches in Bulawayo and one in Victoria Falls. But because of financial constraints and other challenges we decided to have just one. The one everybody knows today. We decided to fuse both the hair salon and modelling agency and operate from the same building. We began training hairdressers and grooming models.
PM: So are there any examples of people that have managed to develop themselves from your guidance?
SMS: There a lot of examples of people that have made a name for themselves that I have mentored. Some have even managed to establish their own businesses and have gone on to train their own hairdressers and beauticians.
PM: Fingers is indeed more than just a beauty parlour. How do you feel being in the forefront of mentoring people?
SMS: It’s joyful and this has begat a future for other people and youths. Joy is in seeing people being empowered and being able to fend for their families and keeping away from trouble through this art. This was a small dream that turned into a successful reality.
PM: What struggles did you come across in the industry?
SMS: In the beginning we suffered from negativity but as time went on people began to appreciate the industry. However as many businesses are suffering today the economy is harsh but we try to stay afloat.
Some hairdressers at the salon said they were indebted to Sarah for mentoring them and giving them the opportunity and platform to make ends meet.
A dreadlock specialist at the salon – Mkhululi warmly known as “Sky” said he felt honoured to have the chance to be mentored under Sarah, saying that he nurtured his talent at Fingers.
“I never went to any beauty school to learn how to do dreadlocks. It was her (Sarah) who saw that I had a talent and she helped me nurture it. I have strayed at one time, as a youngster but she took me back in as a prodigal son. Today I am able to fend for myself and family. I am very much grateful to her for taking me in and keeping me away from trouble,” said Sky.
Another hairdresser, Jackie Mpofu, echoed the same sentiments, saying since she started working at Fingers in 2008, she had managed to do a lot.
“I have managed to do a lot; to begin with this place nurtured me. I used to be irresponsible but Fingers helped me become a responsible person. I am able to pay my rentals and child’s school fees. Sarah is not only a boss but a mother and always pushes us to strive to be better,” she said.