Hair as heritage: Nikiwe Dlova's spiritual journey through hair

By Lindelwa Masuku

Nikiwe Dlova, a trailblazing hair artist from Soweto, disrupts traditional hair norms with her OwnUrCrown salon. Her innovative designs and themes of self-expression, spirituality, and cultural identity redefine the role of hair, fostering connections and empowerment through artistic braided extensions and headpieces.

Nikiwe Dlova, a visionary hair artist hailing from Diepkloof in Soweto, has carved a distinct niche for herself in the world of hair artistry. 

Born out of a passion for fashion, beauty, and self-expression, Nikiwe's journey took a pivotal turn when she recognised the absence of diverse representation in the hair artistry industry. 

In 2018, she boldly launched OwnUrCrown, a salon that transcends conventional boundaries, fusing modern headpieces with intricate handwoven braided extensions, resulting in visual narratives that echo history, culture, and personal identity.

Nikiwe Dlova crowning one of her creations at the Kizazimoto Generation Fire Premiere, celebrating African animation with Disney Plus ZA. Instagram photo

At the heart of Nikiwe's work lies a profound exploration of themes that transcend the superficial realm of haircare. Her creations become not just style statements, but also powerful reflections of spirituality, individuality, and communal bonding. 

Breaking free from the shackles of societal norms, Nikiwe advocates for a dynamic relationship with hair, one that is deeply intertwined with self-love, respect, and consciousness. 

Nikiwe Dlova’s Artwork ‘Nandi’ inspired by Nandi Madida’s photo wearing the artists headpiece on Black is King. Instagram image

Her journey to embrace her natural hair and empower others to do the same resonates as a transformative act of self-discovery and cultural reconnection.

Through her innovative designs and daring concepts, Nikiwe redefines the language of hair as a medium of expression. With reverence, she explores the intersection of art, history, and personal heritage. 

In January Nikiwe Dlova got an opportunity to go to Ghana and do hair for Vogue's Global Entertainment Director Deborah Ababio for @fiftyfourmag. Instagram image

One of her most significant achievements was being featured as a hair artist in Beyoncé's 'Black Is King,' a testament to her ability to weave stories through hair and connect with a global audience. 

Nikiwe's work becomes a conversation starter, bridging cultural divides and facilitating genuine connections by tapping into the shared experience of hair as a conduit of identity and expression.

Nikiwe Dlova, weaving and embroidering an African (hair) aesthetic. Lilitha Hairstyle (synthetic hair, wool and cotton canvas) 2021. Instagram image

As September, South Africa's heritage month, approaches, Nikiwe Dlova's journey becomes even more resonant. 

Her exploration of her ancestral roots and the incorporation of timeless craftsmanship skills is a testament to the deep-seated connection between one's past and the path ahead. 

Nikiwe Dlova, graces the cover of the Don't Touch My Hair ISS12, ColorBloc Magazine. Photographer | Nateko Mondhlana Art Director | Aza Lithalethu. Instagram image

By challenging norms, nurturing self-love, and creating art that transcends boundaries, Nikiwe not only defines a new narrative around black hair but also emerges as a beacon of creativity and empowerment for those seeking to embrace their own unique crowns.

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