Character of K' Road – Sam Kumah from the African Hair Braiding & Extension Centre
Dreadlocks were around before the hairbrush was invented, laughs Sam Kumah, owner of the African Hair Braiding and Extension Centre on K' Road.
He has watched hairstylists come and go from K' Road over the past 20 plus years - and just like dreadlocks, Sam's business has longevity. As I watch Sam and his wife Mercy weave their magic on their customers' hair, long and short, blonde and dark, I can see why. Find out more….
How long has the business been in K' Road?
My sister Rose set the business up over 20 years ago on the other side of the road and I joined her. We moved to this site in 1999. About 15 years ago Rose moved to Australia to set up over there. Now it is just me, and my wife Mercy.
Why set up in K' Road?
No particular reason. Wherever we set up, it was going to be a challenge and a gamble. We just decided to try here. We had to be somewhere.
Why offer hair braiding and dreadlocks?
I was a barber in Ghana so I was in the field and became more and more interested in the braiding and dreadlock head styles. To get tidy hair in Ghana you do braiding.
I was interested in the look. It wasn't about religion. To us it is all about fashion and we felt New Zealand needed this type of business.
Over 20 years how much have customers changed?
People of all nations come to get braids or dreadlocks. It is the UN salon. The Ghana community is only about 100 so we are here for everyone.
How hard is it to braid?
Nothing is so hard if you know how to do it. Everything is hard if you don't know. I was trained a little bit overseas and then continued here. I'll never stop learning and studying braiding, dreadlocks and the modern fashions.
How do dreadlocks work?
Dreadlocks is the oldest hairstyle before the hair brush. We create from straight hair to dreadlocks, to dreadlocks to maintenance.
We meld their hair together, that is how dreadlocks are formed. We do it the organic way. Our technique is called Hyena Tracks. Depending on the density, length of hair and thickness of the dread, it can take two hours or more.
Some places use forms of chemicals - some people use super glue to get the hair massing together. We do a lot of damage control and maintenance because lots of people come to us to fix their dreads after using super glue. It is hard to fix though.
What are the challenges of being in business for you?
The economy. When the economy is growing, business grows. That is all.
So Mercy and you run the business?
Yes, Mercy has been here just over 11 years. I went on vacation to Ghana and love brought her to New Zealand. She was hairdressing over there. We now have three children, 9, 7 and 5 – two boys and a girl.
What do like most about K' Road?
It is an interesting place. You have to be committed to K' Road but people in K' Road are lovely. Some people don't come here because they think K' Road is too strange and they are afraid – but finally they come to us when their hair is going wrong.
What do you say to people who are unsure about K' Road?
K' Road is not that strange or scary. People are as friendly to you as you are to them. People just need a little respect - you respect them and come with a friendly face, and you'll see friendly.
Like to change on K Road?
Nothing. We are up for any of the development. I'm not against the city rail and cycle ways.
What makes a good community?
Events, the more events - the more people come and eat lots of food and enjoy themselves. When things are on, we go sightseeing in our street to see what others are doing.
We've been here so long, we've been going everywhere, so we have no particular favourite – many favourites.
Doing dishes for my mother. My first job paid by someone was weaving baskets.
For advice, sometimes my wife, sometimes movies. But especially music, High Life Music – that is Ghanian traditional music. It contains a lot of proverbs and advice.
See Samuel and Mercy's handiwork on Facebook: @dreadlocksauckland
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