Nikiwe Dlova: 'Creativity is blossoming like never before in Africa'

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Creative hair stylist Nikiwe Dlova shares her inspiring journey to self expression and hair success.
Soweto-based hair artist Nikiwe Ndlova has changed the way we think about hair with her visionary creations. We asked her about her inspiration and what the next generation of young African creatives is doing differently.
Graduating from the University of Johannesburg in 2013 with a diploma in clothing management, Nikiwe went on to work in retail as an intern and was promoted to assistant in the buying department. In 2016 she went on her own and started her a hair street culture blog called ownURcrown, which elevated her career to what it is today.

What shaped your aesthetic? 

I don’t really remember when the creativity 'hit' or kicked in, and I can’t pinpoint where it comes from exactly. But I remember that as a kid I was always inspired by everything happening around me – the newspapers and magazines, the activity out on the street. Eventually, when I was a little older at school, I started letting some of that creativity out, and I would sing and act as much as I could. But for the most part, my creative side was a little shy.

Was there a moment when something just 'clicked' for you? 

For a long time, you wouldn't even have noticed me. I didn't really express myself on a visual level. It took a while for me develop who I am today and how I portray myself to the world. It only happened after I left university, and more significantly, when I cut my Afro and I suddenly had short hair; it changed everything for me. That was actually such a defining moment and one that really started my relationship with hair. I suddenly felt like my true self.

What was it about cutting your hair that made you feel this way? 

I think that it takes a lot of confidence to be completely who you are. It's easy to underestimate what it takes to be your true self. And unfortunately it’s something that most of us take a long time to learn. One thing I can say though is that people are finding their individuality and sense of self a lot quicker these days ... Maybe because there is a greater sense of belonging?

How do you think creativity in Africa has evolved?  

Creativity is blossoming like never before in Africa. And platforms like social media are helping it along, especially for the younger generations – Millennials and Gen Z. Suddenly people are seeing proper representation, and it helps shed some of the fear or uncertainty of being who you truly are or how you want to present yourself. We’re learning that we don’t have to look across the ocean at places like USA to tell us what to wear and how to look. Suddenly we can stand back and say wait, we don't need anyone else defining us.

How do you think that’s shaping the next generation of creatives?  

The next generation of creatives is going to change the narrative of society. They're discovering things most of us never had the chance to learn. But one of the most important things they’re learning is deep-rooted self-love. It’s such a valuable and powerful lesson to learn.

What have you learned through your own creativity?  

I learned that generally, we don’t celebrate ourselves nearly enough. We have this culture of waiting for others to celebrate or recognise us. We shouldn’t wait for those moments. We should just celebrate ourselves because we are worth celebrating.

What shapes your personal style?  

It’s difficult to describe it because there are so many things that inspire and shape me. Some days I’m simple with a twist; other days I’m a burst of colour. There are days I’m a mix of African eclecticism, and others when I’m quite ‘out there’.

You're known first and foremost for your hair. What does hair mean to you?  

Hair is a powerful thing. Especially in our country, where many people still can’t fully embrace or express themselves through their hair. Hair is fun and it can be interesting. But it’s also political and powerful. It can be a tool for social commentary and for making a statement. What I want most of all is for kids to be inspired by what they see.

Do you think your relationship with hair has a particular future?  

What’s really important for me is that the narrative of hair changes. So I would love to start an academy or production company that will help change the way people look at hair. I want to train people to take hair styling to the next level and push creative boundaries.


Favourite accessory? 
Can I say my hair? Because it’s definitely my hair!

All-time favourite style icon?
Without a doubt, Erykah Badu.

Bucket list destination? 
I can’t pick only one: Ghana, New York City and Amsterdam.

A wild party or a quiet night in? 
I’ve had my wild days, so I’d have to say a quiet night in.

Check out Nikiwe's Instagram & Nikiwe's Blog

Words: Edwain Steenkamp. Photography: Instagram

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